Great White sharks have been responsible for some of the most heinous attacks on humans in the history of the world. It’s a common theme in many disaster films that a shark comes out of nowhere to destroy a boat, or kill a person. They are viewed in the media as bloodthirsty, vicious creatures that can’t be tamed or killed even after they’ve been targeted. They haunt waters and dark depths where snorkelers and divers go. It’s a common fact that these predators are not to be messed with.
Do you ever wonder why you don’t see them in captivity typically? Not really, but there are some interesting reasons, scientifically behind why these great predators can’t be held in captivity.
Typically, you’ll see sharks in aquariums. Occasionally you’ll even see them with other fish. Imagine that! Several other species can do well in captivity and can even be domesticated. Great Whites are not one of those species.
Zoos have tried to put these guys in captivity. Needless to say, the efforts have not gone well. Although they’re great for business, because people have a twisted sense of curiosity when it comes to these beasts, it’s not great for the shark itself or the marine ecosystems. Every time a Great White has appeared in an aquarium, people have gone to see it. They make millions of dollars. Most sharks actually can’t survive in captivity, Great Whites that is.
Most Great Whites end up dying a few days or weeks into captivity. This sad phenomenon hasn’t been figured out all the way yet, but there are a few answers that help it make sense.
It turns out that sharks die out of water extremely quickly. Just like if you threw a dog into the sea and expected it to adapt…it just doesn’t really work right? If you take something out of its native habitat, evolutionarily it will not survive.
There are two reasons that Great Whites cannot be held captive. These are sort of common sense. Great Whites take a lot of money and resources to take care of. Researchers at Steinhart Aquarium say that captive sharks could have been “in the process of dying” when they were taken captive. In other words, sharks that were either old or sick were taken into captivity and died of natural causes.
Another theory is that there are size problems. Great White Sharks are huge, they take up a lot of space and they need a lot of space to swim. One of the most famous aquariums in the world, the Monterey Bay Aquarium actually kept a Great White alive for 6 months with a 1-million-gallon tank that was 35 feet deep. The shark in captivity was small, only 4 feet long. Though it had enough room to swim, they realized it wasn’t the best life for it. They released it back into the wild after it killed some of its tank mates. Again, this breed does not play well with others.
The longest anyone has kept a Great White in captivity was that instance at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Great Whites need room, and care. They prefer open water and constantly run into glass, trying to break it when they are held captive. The stress of not being able to be free can kill them. Some people experience this too, it’s just how some species need to live life. Leaving them to their lives is much better than trying to bring them into captivity and hurt their chances at a full life. Though they are dangerous, if they are left alone the species can actually be a great asset to the ecosystem.