5.7.04

Great White, 747 of the Sea

American Zoo and Aquarium Association members are at it again, now it is announced that the "Holy Grail" of their community is the capture, captivity and display of Carcharodon carcharias, the "Great White" shark.

For several years Carcharodon has reigned supreme as the terrible man-eater portrayed by Peter Benchely's novel "Jaws" made into a 1975 movie by the same name. Since then zoologists and their employer zoos and aquariums have been in a feeding frenzy of their own aimed at fueling their institutions coffers with tourist dollars: who would be first to claim the "Great White Prize."

Monterey Bay Aquarium in California seems likely to take the prize. Announcing an all out effort to capture a juvenile and maintain it in a 5 million gallon open-ocean-tuna-pen, in other words a cube approximately 64 yard square, smaller than a football field. These are the type of nets ocean farmers use to commercially raise mullet and grouper for harvest.

A Great White at 1 year can weigh 80 pounds, at adulthood they have been known to achieve a length of 19 feet and weigh 5000 pounds. By all estimates great whites are skidish and private creatures who avoid human beings. Their migration habits and longevity have not been determined precisely and yet it has been speculated that, like their cousins, they roam great distances perhaps circumnavigating the globe and can dive to enormous depths. Partly warm blooded, whites are intelligent and may evidence a propensity for gathering or cooperative behavior.

Since 1955 "researchers" including Sea World of San Diego have hunted and killed 30 Great Whites in a fruitless attempt to capture and exhibit a live great white attraction for profit, the record survival to date is 16 days.

Most legitimate zoologists agree that research needs to proceed in a proper scientific method; monitoring this species until such time as a substantial body of research has been compiled which will provide a basis for understanding this unique and largely misunderstood creature.

Mark Berman, Associate Director of the International Marine Mammal Project regards, "Keeping animals in captivity is nothing but a circus act," apparently "zoo-aquarists" at Monterey Bay Aquarium and the AZA don't necessarily agree, especially where ticket sales are concerned.
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