According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium website, they now have yet another juvenile white shark in captivity and on display in their Outer Bay exhibit. The 5’3″ female white shark was "collected" on August 12 by aquarium staff near Malibu, California. The shark was held for observation in an ocean holding pen to determine if she was eating and swimming appropriately before being transferred to the Outer Bay exhibit. According to the aquarium website, they hope the white shark will remain on exhibit for several months and serve "as a way to change public attitudes and promote protection for this magnificent and much-maligned ocean predator."
While I’m completely in support of efforts to change public attitudes toward white sharks, it’s hard for me to get behind efforts to keep a white shark in captivity. It seems to go against the very nature of a white shark’s existence to be held in captivity, considering they are a highly migratory species. To the credit of Monterey Bay Aquarium, they do seem to keep a watchful eye over the white sharks that they’ve had on exhibit in the past and released them if the shark’s behavior seems to be negatively affected by being held in captivity. In addition, some of the white sharks that the aquarium has had in the past were inadvertently caught by commercial fishermen and were seemingly nursed back to health at the aquarium before being release back into the wild. In the case of this shark, the aquarium website states that the shark was captured with "the help of a spotter plane and a commercial fishing crew using a purse seine net." Based on the statement from the aquarium, it sounds as if the shark was targeted for capture, as opposed to be rescued from an accidental capture. If anybody can clarify this, I’d appreciate the information.
Ultimately, the white shark exhibit will likely generate some positive press about white sharks, as well as give aquarium visitors the opportunity to witness what I believe to be a magnificent animal. For white sharks, as a species, it seems like a very positive thing to have a white shark on exhibit, but when it comes to the single shark held in captivity, I have to wonder if being captured and put on display at an aquarium is really in that particular shark’s best interest. I guess you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.