Why Great White Sharks Are Never in Aquariums

Have you ever pondered the question of why great white sharks are rarely exhibited in public aquariums? We keep orcas in captivity, so why not great white sharks? Surely it’s not because of their size. At the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan, one of the final attempts to bring a great white shark into captivity was made in the previous calendar year. It only lived for three days before it passed away.

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Prior to this, there have been dozens of other attempts, each of which was just as disheartening as this one, to put great white sharks on exhibit for the general public. The first attempt that is known to have been made was in the middle of the 1950s at an oceanarium and tourist attraction in California called Marineland of the Pacific.

It held on for fewer than twenty-four hours. During the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, SeaWorld attempted on multiple occasions to house great white sharks; however, these attempts were unsuccessful, and the sharks either perished or were returned to their natural habitats within a few weeks of their capture.

In point of fact, in 2004, the Monterey Bay Aquarium became the first and only establishment in the world to successfully keep great white sharks alive for more than 16 days. In spite of the fact that this is the exception rather than the rule, they actually made it through several months alive and in good health.

The combination of great white sharks and aquariums almost never ends nicely. There are several hypotheses that attempt to explain why these “tough warriors of the waters” do so poorly when kept in captivity. A key issue is their diet. The great white shark is a prototypical example of an apex predator.


In the wild, they would have to be dangerously close to starvation before they would consume anything other than live prey. In the context of a public aquarium, doing so is neither simple nor low-cost, nor is it particularly beneficial from a public relations standpoint. It is important to point out that many of the great whites that had difficulty adjusting to life in captivity frequently refused to eat enough food.

Unfortunately for them, great white sharks are one of the aquatic species that must always move forward in order to ensure that water is always moving over their gills and providing them with oxygen. Due to the fact that individuals of this species can frequently reach lengths of up to 6 metres (20 feet), you are going to require an extremely large tank in order to provide the necessary amount of space for its growth.

In the environment, it is only natural for these sharks to travel such long distances. It was reportedly documented that a female shark known as Nicole travelled from Africa to Australia and back again, making a round trip of over 20,000 kilometres (12,400 miles) in just nine months.

A tank that could even begin to replicate the size of the waters they feel comfortable in would be astronomically impossible, thus it is unlikely that anyone will ever build one. To reiterate, from the point of view of a paying member of the public who is interested in seeing a great white shark in the flesh, it would not be particularly exciting to do so.

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The extremely sensitive electroreception of these sharks may be overwhelmed or confused by the artificial environment of a glass tank, according to a second theory. Because of this heightened sensory sensitivity, they are able to notice even the most minute movements and shifts in the aquatic environment.

However, if they were kept in a tank, they would be easily confused by the large number of stimuli that surround them, which include things like glass walls and technological equipment.

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Things have also progressed significantly since the 1990s. The public’s perspective on keeping large marine animals in captivity has undergone a sea change over the past few years, largely as a result of the documentary Blackfish, which garnered a great deal of praise for shedding light on the problematic behaviours of captive orcas kept by SeaWorld.

It is reasonable to assume that a live exhibition of great white sharks would not be as popular with visitors in this day and age as it would have been in times past

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