the sometimes senseless ravings (and the occassional rant) of an aspiring marine ecologist who may enjoy killing things a little too much
Friday, March 11, 2005
Captive Great White
this morning i have been hearing about one of these guys being held in the monterey bay aquarium and the public outcry against it...because it has recently bitten two soupfin sharks, which later died. you can read the story at http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/11108423.htm. i won't go into the whole thing, just give my opinion. and my opinion comes from the POV of a scientist who thinks that environmental groups made up primarily of concerned citizens are too opinionated when it comes to things they don't really understand. and my major beef with people who want the shark released immediately is that they aren't bitching about other large, predatory, threatened or endangered animals being held in zoos. yes, the great white is a "vulnerable" species, and efforts should probably be made to not wipe out the species. but what, exactly, is the difference between holding a great white in an aquarium and keeping lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) in zoos? don't be selective in your bitching, people, if your opinion is so strong against holding threatened or endangered animals captive, which i might add is the only thing keeping several species around. we've been doing it for years, and there's apparently a good market for it. just look at sea world...they do shows with one of the world's fiercest predators, the killer whale. and millions of tourists flock to the shows every year. has anyone cried out for the release of shamu back to the ocean??? well, i actually don't know. perhaps when she was first captured. but let's face it, she's been in captivity too long by now to survive in the wild again.
so what is the major difference between this very young, very small (only 5 1/2 ft, ~100 lbs) great white and other predators in captivity? well, this great white is being held in a tank full of other fish species. and i have to say that fish are not that concentrated in most areas of the ocean (major exceptions - bays and reefs). so this shark is probably not accustomed to being in such close proximity to other animals for such a long time. it's an apex predator. face it, it's going to hunt and eat other large fishes, since there aren't any seals in that tank, which are the great white's food of choice. so don't bitch about a shark acting like a shark. monterey bay aquarium's mistake: putting this young great white in a tank with tons of other species. you don't see the lions and tigers in zoos in enclosures inhabited by tasty critters, do you? no.
and now, for my rant on the "researchers" who are opposing the public on this, or perhaps they're trying to appease the public...anyway, they say that as soon as the shark's health starts to fail (it's the only great white in captivity, and the last one people attempted to hold in an aquarium only survived for just over 2 wks) or she gets too large to hold or transport, they'll release her. there are major flaws with the reasoning here. i can understand wanting to learn as much as possible from this shark, but i don't really think it should've been in the aquarium in the first place if it can't accomodate a full-grown, 15-ft great white. i also don't know how long it takes for a captive shark to become so accustomed to being fed and protected that it loses its ability to fend for itself in the wild. no one knows this for the great white. is it already too late to release the shark (it's only been 6 months)? maybe not.
about that releasing it if it gets too big thing, it will take several years for the shark to attain a size that will render it un-transportable or too large for its surroundings. and by the time this occurrs, the great white will most likely not be able to survive in the ocean because it has been fed (as opposed to hunting for its food) in a relatively safe environment for years. which means that releasing it then will mean that it will probably die anyway.
the verdict: this shark should never have been in captivity in the first place. the fisherman just said, "look, we caught a great white. cool." then the aquarium said, "oooh, a great white. ch-ching! let's keep it" without thinking this decision through. if they don't have the space to keep the shark as an adult, they should never have taken on a baby great white. but they did. so what do they do now? either 1) release this little girl immediately or 2) expand their facilities to keep her when she grows up.
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