Articles, Blog

Why no aquarium has a great white shark

March 6, 2020

There are some shark species that seem to
do okay in aquariums. You’ll see a lot of nurse sharks, zebra sharks, some reef sharks
and sand tiger sharks. But not the great white. For decades, aquariums have tried to contain
the world’s largest predatory fish. Institutions like Marineland, SeaWorld and
the Steinhart Aquarium repeatedly took in white sharks during the 1970s, 80s and 90s, at times
drawing huge crowds. But they never lasted long. Some needed help swimming. None of them would eat. The longest one lasted was just 16 days. A 1984 report by the Steinhart Aquarium put it this way: “In most cases it could be said that all these
captive sharks were merely in the process of dying, with some taking longer than others.”
They had constructed an elaborate transport tank with a harness and IV fluids, but still
couldn’t keep the sharks alive. It wasn’t until 2004 that the Monterey Bay
Aquarium proved that it was possible to keep white sharks for at least six months. It took
a massive effort, and no one’s done it since. JON HOECH: Our approach was one of sort of
a systematic, logical sequence of things leading up to our success and it started with designing
a tank. The Monterey Bay Aquarium had a million gallon,
egg-shaped tank, 35 feet deep, designed for open-ocean animals like tuna and sharks. So
you need a big tank. You also need a small shark. Adult great whites reach 15 feet on average. The Monterey Bay Aquarium nabbed one in 2004
that was 4 feet, 4 inches, less than a year old. That made it easier to move and easier
to keep. JON HOECH: When they’re young they feed
on fish. And as they get older they transition to feeding more on mammals. And so we were targeting
the age bracket where we knew we were more able to feed their natural diet.
And once they collected the shark, they didn’t take it straight to the aquarium. Instead,
the Monterey Bay team set up a 4 million gallon pen right there in the ocean.
That way they could monitor the shark and see if it would feed before they moved it
into a transport tank to travel from southern California where the sharks were born up to the aquarium.
Sharks, like all fish, need to have water continually passing through their gills in
order to get oxygen. Most species can open and close their mouths
to pump the water through. But white sharks and a couple dozen other species don’t do
that. To breathe, they have to move forward through the water with their mouths open.
That’s why white sharks start to weaken as soon as they’re caught in a net. And
that’s why they needed a custom built transport tank with mobile life support.
JON HOECH: Everything from oxygen sensors and video cameras and lighting and filtration
systems that were needed for what turned out to roughly be 9 to 11 hour transport time. Aquarium attendance jumped 30 percent while the shark was on display. After 6 and a half months, they decided to release it because it had killed 2 other
sharks. Over the next 6 years, the aquarium displayed
5 more baby white sharks – some they paid fishermen to hand over, some they caught themselves.
Their stays ranged from just 11 days up to 5 months. The Monterey Bay Aquarium had succeeded
in doing what no one else could. But it did take a toll on the sharks. They
developed visible sores from bumping into the sides of the tank.
SEAN VAN SOMMERAN: We actually snuck in with photographers and took pictures of the sharks
as they were beginning to attrit and fail due to the constant scraping against the walls
basically. As we viewed it, it was a vase of flowers that would be kept for the visitors.
Historically, aquariums kept sharks that lived near the seabed or near reefs. That makes
sense – it’s easier to recreate those habitats in a tank. But in recent decades,
aquariums have wanted to bring in bigger, more pelagic sharks, those that spend time
roaming the open ocean. They’ve even been able to exhibit the largest
shark in the world, the whale shark, if they have a big enough tank.
But pelagic sharks are used to being able to swim long distances without obstructions,
changing directions only as they please. So the faster-moving sharks like the
white shark, mako shark, and blue shark, they have trouble with walls when they’re
put in a tank. That’s what was happening with the Monterey
Bay Aquarium’s sixth white shark in 2011. They decided to release it after 55 days and
its tracking tag revealed that the shark died shortly after being released. They’re not
 sure why. But since then, they haven’t tried bring in
another great white shark. JON HOECH: It’s just a very very very resource
intensive program and we felt like we had accomplished our goal of introducing the general
public to a live white shark. It took a huge, carefully planned system to
keep a white shark alive. And even then, the sharks didn’t quite fit there.
We can’t seem to stop trying though. Earlier this year, an 11.5-foot great white shark
was taken to an aquarium in Okinawa, Japan after getting caught in a fisherman’s net.
It was the only adult white shark ever to be put on display, and within 3 days it was dead. I wanted show you a great resource online
called the Biodiversity Heritage Library – it’s the product of a couple dozen
museums and libraries all agreeing to scan millions of pages from books related to biodiversity.
They’ve got a bunch of great albums on Flickr, including one that’s all about sharks.
Some of these go back to the 16th and 17th centuries, back when the naturalists used to call sharks “sea dogs” which is funny because as we now know sharks were roaming the oceans for about 300 million years before the first mammals showed up.


  • Reply T Brown February 25, 2020 at 2:58 am

    When will they realize animals were not meant to be in captivity .

  • Reply A R February 25, 2020 at 5:53 am

    U can take a great white out of its environment but you can't change its instincts

  • Reply just a fan February 25, 2020 at 6:41 am

    Okay i cant even finish the video cause its sickening. Not even half done. Just leave them alone. Leave the sharks alone. Let them be. Leave the animals alone roaming in their natural habitat. Geez sharks travel the vast seas and u wanna keep the contain in that oh so small aquarium? Merely for humans to see? We have videos and internet alredy. Leave the frkin animal be

  • Reply Jackpot! February 25, 2020 at 11:04 am

    every1 in the comments r ezzz mad

  • Reply ur fbi agent • February 25, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    if the public really REALLY wants to see a great white shark, take them to the ocean and leave them there and they’ll get what they want

  • Reply Coach Quil February 25, 2020 at 3:17 pm

    It’s almost like animals aren’t suppose to be held captive 🤔🤔🤔

  • Reply Olivia H February 25, 2020 at 4:18 pm

    we all know why aquariums exist. it’s for education. stop acting like there’s absolutely no point. y’all are mad annoying.

  • Reply Lauren Paz February 25, 2020 at 9:17 pm

    Why not just leave them alone?

  • Reply Luitzen Sikkema February 25, 2020 at 10:00 pm

    It's generally a negative thing to lock something up. Humans sure don't like it. Also: Metric system. Use it, and stop alienating the rest of the planet please.

  • Reply dedito E. February 26, 2020 at 12:55 am

    too much work for the sake of human selfishness…..

  • Reply 9 yr old February 26, 2020 at 1:12 am

    this was extremely infuriating

  • Reply Ben Blanco February 26, 2020 at 1:16 am

    Real Shame What People Do 2 All Those Sharks! "Died, But Dont Understand." I'm Just Baffled!

  • Reply imhighonmisery February 26, 2020 at 1:21 am

    Kidnapping animals to put on display for human amusement is disgusting and people who pay to see it are just as disgusting as the ones who do the kidnapping!

  • Reply Fletcher Gibson February 26, 2020 at 4:11 am

    While the sentiment of these comments is really admirable there is a scary amount of misinformation being spread. Everyone needs to remain wary of zoos and aquariums that take poor care of their animals and exhibit animal cruelty. These places are becoming less common in developed countries and they are normally smaller family run businesses, hobby farms, tourist trap amusement parks. However! There are still many zoos and aquariums that adhere to strict standards and employ only professionals who care about each animal's comfort and happiness deeply. And you cannot turn your back on them because these places are some of the few organisations that make real difference in conservation. These places bring animals back from the brink of extinction with rehabilitation, breeding programs, and releasing and monitoring new populations back into the wild. They also put big money and resources behind environmentalist legislation and habitat protection.

    A lot of these comments also really discount the value of learning about these animals first hand. "I don't need to see a great white. let it be free!" While yes I agree that I hope aquariums stop trying with great whites, since it's clearly not going to work, you're really not seeing the big picture when you villainize these researchers. 100 million sharks are killed each year and the only way to stop that is to spread awareness, change public perception so that laws and fishing practices can change. Monteray Bay Aquarium kept 6 great whites since 2004 and while this video focused on the one that died the others were released back into the wild alive, and each monitored for a month. MB Aquarium also allows approximately 75,000 students a year to explore the aquarium for free. The movie Jaws did irreparable damage to the public perception of sharks resulting in decades of culling across the world and it really is vitally important that people see 'scary animals' in real life and appreciate for themselves how beautiful and special they are, so that they will put their support behind the fight for their futures.

  • Reply Hyejin Mok February 26, 2020 at 4:30 am

    Leave those sharks alone.

  • Reply Ethan Hudson February 26, 2020 at 5:57 am

    I have a solution, don’t keep putting animals in cages just to be viewed

  • Reply Lance Johnson February 26, 2020 at 6:46 am

    They did great research. They wanted to see if it was possible to contain these great beasts. The ending concluded the hypothesis. No, you can’t.

  • Reply Maxwell Shaver February 26, 2020 at 8:20 am

    Say it with me people: NO ANIMAL SHOULD BE HELD IN CAPTIVITY. Zoos, factory farms, circuses, and aquariums are ALL wrong. Go vegan (A) (V)

  • Reply MADDIE MOVER February 26, 2020 at 12:23 pm

    The real question is… why do humans want to put a great white shark in tank? 😐😑

  • Reply sofiaanne February 26, 2020 at 12:39 pm

    How about just leaving the sharks alone?

  • Reply DJ Ryan February 26, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    All this just for attendance

  • Reply Lady Braybrooke February 26, 2020 at 3:03 pm

    Petition to build a tunnel with strong glass windows thru a small part of thr ocean so it will be like an aquarium but fishies won't have to suffer and be taken out of their natural habitat

  • Reply Robert Strong February 26, 2020 at 4:57 pm

    How about a shark put you on display for his shark homies

  • Reply Robert Strong February 26, 2020 at 5:12 pm

    Thanks Youtube, you have saddened me

  • Reply Tuana Mey February 26, 2020 at 11:00 pm

    What is it with people wanting to dominate every creature on the planet? Just stay the fork away and live your life without destroying any creatures and your planet for god´s sake. Disgusting beings we are!!

  • Reply That brat February 27, 2020 at 3:33 am

    im in my house, in my room, in my bed but somehow I stretch my feet toward the edge of my bed and gets feeling that shark with eat my feet. 😐

  • Reply Hey Bye February 27, 2020 at 5:49 am

    So you killed multiple shark only to realize that they don’t do well because of walls

  • Reply Harish Abraham February 27, 2020 at 9:24 am

    Are you saying all those James Bond villains couldn’t have shark tank? All my childhood is wasted believing that 😄

  • Reply Harveer sandhu February 27, 2020 at 9:55 am

    this should be made illegal what we don't want to see a white giant shark trapped in a tank and feel excited. it's disgusting i just-

  • Reply Vampirecutie February 27, 2020 at 3:32 pm

    Awe I always wondered why you never saw them, but always assumed it was because they could break the glass or eat all the other fishies..

    This is sadder tho

  • Reply XRemARx February 27, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    This s*** makes me sick. Animals are not meant for captivity.

  • Reply AC C February 27, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    So messed up. Leave the sharks alone!

  • Reply Easyjet 001 February 27, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    Sea world has entered the chat

  • Reply Lou Moon February 28, 2020 at 12:50 am

    They took a baby, that’s disgusting.

  • Reply Gabe277 February 28, 2020 at 2:32 am

    i rlly hate humans sometimes

  • Reply - d i s a s t e r - February 28, 2020 at 3:08 am

    How about this: stop with all the aquariums

  • Reply Lizbeth Mata February 28, 2020 at 4:18 am

    I’m from Monterey ): I didn’t know this

  • Reply Ileana Rendon February 28, 2020 at 4:49 am

    or y’all could, ya know, just leave the sharks alone

  • Reply Liam Sweeney February 28, 2020 at 11:58 am

    They could just leave them in the ocean.

  • Reply Jessi Talbot February 28, 2020 at 6:42 pm

    I thought these people would be into ocean conservation, not purposely killing animals??

  • Reply Daniel Lincoln February 28, 2020 at 7:14 pm

    After we killed over a half a dozen sharks and blew a bunch of money we decided that maybe this isn't something a 30% increase in ticket sales would cover.

  • Reply AHMAD FARROUKH February 29, 2020 at 2:49 am

    Homosapiens are sick

  • Reply itisistacy TarotReader February 29, 2020 at 4:11 am

    gee i wonder why?

  • Reply Mary Miceli February 29, 2020 at 6:57 am

    How sick.

  • Reply imatryhard February 29, 2020 at 12:15 pm

    Good y’all don’t need one

  • Reply nonochan yeppoyo 2 February 29, 2020 at 12:38 pm

    This sounds cruel.

  • Reply Macho di Negro February 29, 2020 at 1:16 pm

    Mine has like 8

  • Reply pranil jadhav February 29, 2020 at 3:59 pm

    I feel gut-wrenched and only sadness after watching this. If I really want to see something I’ll make an effort to see it in person and not take photos, if I want photos I use google images.

  • Reply Mark Torres February 29, 2020 at 8:16 pm

    831 represent 🕺

  • Reply callmecayllie February 29, 2020 at 8:25 pm

    when humans acting more like an animals than the animals itself.

  • Reply The One Joke King February 29, 2020 at 10:09 pm

    Humans are so rude. They repeatedly try to put an animal in captivity that is so adverse to it that each one dies every time, but the humans just keep trying because petty amusement is more important than life itself.

    Edit: rude was a poor choice in wording. Evil.

  • Reply Purple Pussy February 29, 2020 at 11:54 pm

    The shark ends up on my dinner table! No surprise there!

  • Reply Matthew Walton March 1, 2020 at 2:30 am

    I used to live in Salinas and me and my family would go visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium a lot. I'm pretty sure I've been there at least once when they had a great white, though I was too young to remember it. They need to bring in a whale shark, they can't be beat by Georgia!!

  • Reply uwu thot March 1, 2020 at 4:22 am

    people will freak out when a shark dies but then eat a hamburger

  • Reply carlie partridge March 1, 2020 at 5:09 am

    "Merely in the process of dying" 🤭😪

  • Reply Fiona Macke March 1, 2020 at 5:55 am

    If they’re trying to rescue injured sharks that’s one thing, but stop taking them just to put them on display

  • Reply monet roshi March 1, 2020 at 7:46 am

    6 months 🙄 wow how nice

  • Reply Carpty March 1, 2020 at 8:26 am

    but ur a human

  • Reply Dylan Barackman March 1, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    Aquarium of the Pacific 👀

  • Reply HipHopotamus March 1, 2020 at 8:58 pm

    Humans: “Yay we captured a shark and now we can put it on display in a tank” Shark: *uninstalls life

  • Reply Labiba A Ahmed March 1, 2020 at 9:18 pm

    i hate humans

  • Reply Ella Komiya March 1, 2020 at 11:07 pm

    Stuff like this is why I enjoy Vox. I don’t care for their political stuff.

  • Reply Treasure Inc. March 1, 2020 at 11:19 pm

    Dude watching this got me annoyed cause I know why they keep dying it’s because of some people in aquariums wanting so much money that they’re willing to put a sharks life and other sea animals at risk of death just to put it on display for people to watch them swim, when they’re meant to be in the ocean

  • Reply KnightSoul March 2, 2020 at 5:03 am

    Soo shoud we call dogs, land sharks?

  • Reply ישעיהו בן-תורה March 2, 2020 at 5:55 am

    This video is just 😥

  • Reply Dirty Daan March 2, 2020 at 6:32 am

    Definitely feel like I’ve seen one in person before??? Idr where

  • Reply MAGEESAN March 2, 2020 at 6:48 am

    Here’s an idea, maybe not keep them in captivity?

  • Reply israelyrex March 2, 2020 at 9:30 am

    what a colassal waste of time and money

  • Reply Ivy Yu March 2, 2020 at 2:58 pm

    I do not go to aquarium & zoo now. I used to love them when i was a child but only recently i realized how cruel this practice.

  • Reply natcat07 March 2, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    It’s because unlike some humans, animals love their freedom and would prefer death over being caged up.

  • Reply BreakCards March 3, 2020 at 2:42 am

    Maybe something biological internal makes the animal changes the direction . With walls the animal cannot do that

  • Reply Antonina Varshilova March 3, 2020 at 3:59 am

    Proof that depression kills even the worst of the worst 😂

  • Reply domy womy March 3, 2020 at 5:32 am

    great white:*kills two sharks*
    people: •O•

  • Reply Andrea Vega March 3, 2020 at 6:42 am

    As long as it’s profitable, humans will never stop imprisoning and enslaving animals. It’s disgusting.

  • Reply musiq DEEP March 3, 2020 at 8:46 am

    Why try though??!!

  • Reply Henrijs March 3, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    yay what a great success stealing and putting animals in cages and then getting money from it. let's do the same with some president's child, put him in a cage in a museum and see how that goes. 😉

  • Reply Krystal Williams March 3, 2020 at 4:19 pm

    Or we just not have them or really any animal in human monitored captivity that would be cool right?

  • Reply TBS DAIJH March 3, 2020 at 6:40 pm

    South africa does

  • Reply Renee Catagnus March 3, 2020 at 9:28 pm

    Gee, what could be happening to the Great Whites , in captivity??

  • Reply Anakin Skywalker March 3, 2020 at 10:50 pm

    Humans are disgusting

  • Reply HAREL ATIAS March 3, 2020 at 11:13 pm

    why aquariums shouldn't exist*

  • Reply Joe Lawton March 3, 2020 at 11:19 pm

    Even vectors shark always hit the walls (despicable me)

  • Reply JonVon Pony March 4, 2020 at 12:13 am

    Pretty messed to just test life like that, sure u can see if it's possible but I cant understand why you would WANT to with something like this.

  • Reply Nick J March 4, 2020 at 4:39 am

    They could've made this video way shorter and just said they can't

  • Reply johnny don’t leave me March 4, 2020 at 4:21 pm

    What’s the music? ):

  • Reply Jipsyy March 4, 2020 at 7:19 pm

    Yeah maybe leave them tf alone

  • Reply Afika x March 4, 2020 at 7:50 pm

    Animals have rights too!! I swear humans are too entitled at times 😔!

  • Reply Diary of a Pin Up - Bette Foord March 5, 2020 at 1:30 am

    Is this just America? I feel like I've seen great whites in Melboure (Australia) Aquarium

  • Reply Kathryn Baudelaire March 5, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Because they're not meant to be in an aquarium. They belong to the ocean.

  • Reply Bizzaro MG March 5, 2020 at 7:27 pm

    Here's a solution:
    Stop putting them in tanks

  • Reply Raphael Reis March 5, 2020 at 9:26 pm

    great video but PLEASE use the metric system for gods sake

  • Reply Fourtwentea March 5, 2020 at 11:10 pm

    It’s sad that the only reason they call off trying to capture these creatures is because the consumption of resources and not because it genuinely hurts and kills the sharks

  • Reply Ty Kenny March 6, 2020 at 3:57 am

    What happens to these sharks is the same thing that happens to men in cubicles, only it takes 20 years longer.

  • Reply Lourdes Aguirre March 6, 2020 at 4:57 am

    you don't say… so essentially this video points out that great whites, along with most living organisms (except, apparently us humans, a majority anyways), if contained and deprived of their freedom to roam, they simply don't want to live anymore. they actually cannot 'live' anymore…

    not to get too meta here, but in turn, does that makes us machines..? like machines in a carefully constructed algorithm, like an algorithm in some sort of large system or groups of sytems? albeit there are a few anomalies, but they stay hidden and are promptly 'corrected'. lest they be outside of the system, of course…

    'of course…' is our language actually a carefully constructed system, designed to always meet at the end of a perfect circle, no matter how far reaching? almost as if to avoid other systems from interference…?

    hrmmmmmmm… me head feels all scratchy now, must be my queue for bedtime!! ohhh sweet apple-pie Americana, Daylight Savings is in a bit! that means DARKNESS FALLS a bit later, buying us more time, for a short while. Weeeeeeee!

    Tony Ferguson:


  • Reply Bryce Kime March 6, 2020 at 5:22 am

    What if they took a baby shark and put it in a large tank? Would it learn the boundaries and adapt?

  • Reply Sheena Roda March 6, 2020 at 6:44 am

    Why would they want put a shark in an aquarium????

  • Reply My Things March 6, 2020 at 6:59 am

    Who lives in the Salinas Valley? Because i’m close to Monterey Bay Aquarium

  • Reply magda ramirez March 6, 2020 at 7:07 am

    I stopped going to zoos and aquariums because I find them disturbing. Just a couple months ago I went to a little safari concept here in Mexico and it was weird seeing the bisons, cause I lived in Idaho for 5 years and I saw them many times in the Yellowstone park and they looked so big and free; but here in Mexico they looked smaller and skinnier, the space wasn’t big enough and they were sharing it with other random animals like giraffes and lions. I wanted to cry so bad, so I promised to myself that I will not contribute to this.

  • Reply wHerEs yOuR HOMEWORKKK!!! March 6, 2020 at 7:08 am

    i wish aquariums and zoos were just animal hospitals bc it benefits both the audience and the animals and when they get better they can get released

  • Reply Heliotrope Sunset March 6, 2020 at 11:50 am

    What is wrong with people. These animals end up suffering everytime, and the aquarium obviously doesn't have the capabilities to look after them.

    Leave them alone, awful barbaric practise.

  • Leave a Reply