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SHOULD SHARKS BE IN AQUARIUMS?

Most sharks are at the top of their food chain. They’re called apex predators and are critical in maintaining our marine environment. Many are open ocean shark species that travel long distances regularly in cycles and are considered to be migratory.

An example is the whale shark that migrates great long distances in the world’s oceans and has been recorded to travel over 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometres).

Crossing through man’s international water boundaries makes sharks vulnerable, and while researchers consider one third of all shark species as threatened, the migratory sharks are worse off with a figure of almost 50% considered threatened.

Since 2004 the Monterey Bay Aquarium has led a conservation, education and research program to save the great white sharks. It is famous for holding on display a great white shark that was viewed by the public for 198 days before she was released into the Monterey Bay.  It was the longest exhibit of a great white shark ever.

During the six and a half months nearly a million visitors saw the shark exhibit and in the words of the Executive Director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium the great white shark became “the most powerful emissary for ocean conservation in our history.”

Experts agree that sharks in captivity do not really follow their natural behaviour in the wild. For an animal used to swimming freely for hundreds of miles in cycles of migration being kept in even monster size water tanks could cause them extreme stress, and even risk of life. However, we know that shark behaviour in the wild is not free of man’s harm in other ways, the fact remains that 50% are threatened.

Exhibiting sharks or any living creature in captivity is an age-old dilemma to mankind.  Zoos have struggled with this for years. Can seeing and observing a living shark in an aquarium that strives to maintain it’s well being help save the species? Will my visit help fund the research that is necessary to save our marine environments?

Take a look at this video of the shark exhibition and conservation video http://youtu.be/caxzHsT9vXw  . It’s from the group at www.supportoursharks.com.  The site reports that 273 million sharks are killed by humans each year.

How do you feel about seeing sharks in aquariums? Have you seen one? Would you pay to go see a shark in an Aquarium. Would you be less likely to visit an aquarium if it did not have a shark exhibit?

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PLEASURE and PROTEST

Public awareness and concern over marine life has grown over the years. The list of concerns , including netting, over fishing,  shark fin cutting, and the capturing of aquatic mammals has influenced our practices and  now we see a number of aquariums like the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada will not exhibit marine mammals such as dolphins and whales.

Currently, sharks, and manta rays are the aquatic attractions more often used to educate the public and to draw crowds.

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The Aquarium of Barcelona Education Centre opened in 1995, serves as an outreach, education and entertainment centre. It’s Dive with the Sharks program puts visitors 8yrs and up into scuba gear, and teaches its basics in order to submerge them underwater behind an enclosure of large acrylic sheets on a moving runway. The runway moves the visitors and a monitor down under and into the Oceanarium tank to see the rays, sharks and fish swim up close to them while behind the acrylic panels. Family and friends are able to observe from outside the water and share the experience. The program is promoted for birthday parties, and summer camps as well as the everyday visit.

sleepwithsharks-header1Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada will have live shows at their Ray Bay and Rainbow Reef with a live diver inside the tank and an educator outside the tank. Another program called “Sleep with the Sharks” will give children an opportunity to explore the aquarium in the evening and participate in hands on educational experiences. This will be followed with a snack before the children slip into their sleeping bags for a sleep-over in the shark tunnel.

The scope of public education and outreach programming being created by aquariums using sharks and rays varies wildly, and as we know with each one comes the possibility of protest as well as pleasured enlightenment.

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FRIENDS for DINNER?

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I’m not about to blog about fish recipes right now. I’m going to let this picture speak a thousand words, or maybe I should say a thousand worlds?

Underwater aquarium tunnels have been springing up all over the world and are made possible from the huge advancements in curved acrylic panel technology. These advancements have offered the public unique opportunities to experience marine life in underwater habitats and scenes authentically recreated with man made corals, and even sunken ships.

Observing our Feeding Habits

In 2005, the Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa created a restaurant using a unique application of acrylic technology. It opened the famous Ithaa, undersea restaurant on Rangali Island in the Indian Ocean, 16 ft. under. The tiny restaurant seats 12 people and restaurant guests enter using a spiral staircase on the deck above. This unique dining experience offers guests the opportunity to be fully immersed in an underwater view of the ocean and fully inspired by its sharks, manta rays and colourful sea life.

 ” Here the tables are turned.While restaurant guests wine and dine, exotic fish observe their feeding habits through curved, transparent acrylic walls as they swim freely within their own habitat among surrounding coral reefs.”

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TUNNELS & TANKS

Toronto’s Bay Street is famous for its tunnels, amongst other things. It has the underground shopping tunnel called the Path, and then it has its wind tunnel, known for its freezing effects. Soon, there will be a third tunnel in the neighbourhood because Toronto’s new aquarium @Ripley’sAquariumofCanada includes a shark tunnel.

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The tunnel is the aquariums key feature with its moving walkway that allows visitors to step on and off of it. The walkway stretches the entire length of the tunnel, a full 96 metres. It will be the longest of its kind in North America. The tunnel passes through the shark lagoon, a habitat where sand tiger sharks, and sawfish live together with a community of species in 2.84 million litres of water.

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Here’s a clip of the Sand Tiger Shark

Shark Week 2011: Sand Tiger Sharks Deceive with Toothy Look

http://youtu.be/1grBbD7WIwQ

These image renderings from B+H Architects show Ripley’sAquariumofCanada.com  and its proposed shark tunnel with its diverse marine species and community. Strangely, the visiting public are pictured here showing little diversity, that is highly uncharacteristic of Toronto.

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Here is the shark tunnel at the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium (< 1 million gallons)

The Shanghai Ocean Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in Asia. It is composed of 9 exhibition zones of all over the world, including the China Zone, the Antarctic Zone and the Australia Zone. The China Zone is home to several endangered Chinese aquatic species, including rare and precious species from the Yangtze River. The biggest attraction of the aquarium is the underwater tunnel. At 155 meter (509 ft) it is the longest underwater tunnel in the world.

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Explore China

Explore Shanghai Ocean Aquarium

 

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GADDAFI’S SHARK SHIP

GaddafiShip copy

World Maritime News.com

 Sharks on Cruise Ship

This is not what I had in mind when creating this blog. Nothing of the sort has ever entered my imagination, not for a second.  Apparently though, this idea was more than a fleeting thought for Hannibal Gaddafi, a trained seaman who ran Libya’s maritime industry and the fourth son of Col. Gaddafi.

Hannibal Gaddafi commissioned the building of his own cruise ship with its own shark tank. The vessel named PHONECIA was to include a 120 tonne chamber filled with approximately 32,000 gallons of sea water for two white sharks, two blacktip reef sharks and two sand tiger sharks. The ship was to entertain 3,500 guests with elaborate architectural features including marble pillars, giant statues, gold frame mirrors and the shark tank was to be its centerpiece.

The sharks would have four full-time biologists and a dedicated food source on board. Luckily the contract for this stranger than fiction fish tank was terminated after the fall of Gaddafi’s regime and the cruise ship was put on sale. The vessel, now called the PREZIOSA, was bought nine months later by one of the largest cruise companies in the world, MSC Cruises. The 570 million Euro ship set sail on its maiden voyage in March of this year (2013). No longer black in colour, the white ship is cruising now with 4,300 people without sharks on board.

WHITE SHARKSHIPpreziosa

 Mallorca Private Tour Guides.com

This photograph of the PREZIOSA was taken in April 2013 when it was docked in Messina, Sicily. Pictured in the foreground, the PREZIOSA at 139,000 tonnes is the tenth largest cruise ship in the world and dwarfs the 88,000 tonnes Carnival Legend seen here.

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 CruisingAquariums.com

A close view of the bow of PREZIOSA showing the ship’s name.

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  CruisingAquariums.com

Here is a distant shot of the two ships showing the full scale of the Preziosa. It appears to be twice the size of the Carnival Legend. Click on it to see the image in full size.

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CruisingAquariums.com

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SHARKNADO and the TWITTER TSUNAMI

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Numbers are in!  

“Sharknado” a B-listed movie about tornadoes that suck up sharks from the ocean then rain down from the sky onto the residents of Los Angeles, -and how those residents deal with that, was the most-tweeted TV show 3 nights ago, the night it aired, generating 318,232 tweets during broadcast and 5,000 tweets per minute at its peak.

In terms of social media, the movie caused a “twitterquake”. In terms of marine conservation that has spent years dispelling myths surrounding sharks, the movie has caused a tide of concerns. Nobody actually believes that sharks can fall from the sky, but this movie builds on stereotyping the fear factor associated with sharks. It appears there will be rough waters ahead for sharks, a “sharknami”. and aquariums will need to take on a greater role in educating the public about sharks now that “Sharknado” has been released.

 

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TORONTO UNDERWATER

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Shark Meme  by Jamie King

Who can forget this Photoshopped image from the Internet after last year’s flooding of Union Station in Toronto? It went viral and was described as sharks that got loose after an aquarium in Dubai broke its acrylic walls.

Toronto underwater and the flood of 2013

Toronto almost never thinks of life underwater even though it exists on the shores of Lake Ontario – one of the five Great Lakes surrounding it. Maybe that’s why cities like Toronto build large public aquariums.

However, two days ago torrential rains poured down and flooded Toronto bringing its public highways, roads and transportation systems to a halt, stranding its public.

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 Over  300,000 people were left without electricity in the west-end

After spending a warm sunny day in Niagara-on-the-Lake we drove back to Toronto on the Queen Elizabeth Way. By the time we reached Oakville around seven PM we slowed to a crawl. The storm had finished raging but flooding in its aftermath forced the closure of the highway, Toronto airports, subway and the GO trains.

Ironically we were forced onto Lakeshore Drive. It was dusk, and due to the flood the towers of Toronto were without lights as we drove into Toronto. Here are the haunting photos that I took of the drive into Toronto along the Guardiner Expressway.

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10 BIGGEST AQUARIUMS in the WORLD

flickr/Chu

Dubai Mall Aquarium

DOES  SIZE  ”really”  MATTER?

Click the reply button at the top right of this post. Comment and share your points of view.

If public aquariums are important in educating the public in marine environments, then tank size counts. The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, U.S.A., has the largest in the world with a tank that is hour- glass in shape, designed to allow their whale sharks to turn around at each end.

Not all aquarium tanks are shaped the same. The Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in Toronto will have a shark tunnel when it opens. For its sharks and manta rays L’Oceanagraphic in Valencia, Spain, has a tunnel that is 35 meters long connecting two underwater towers with 1,85 million gallons of water. Turkey’s Turkuazoo has a tunnel 80 meters long with its largest exhibit holding 5 million liters, or 1,32 million gallons of water.

I thought it might be interesting to try to list the 10 largest public aquarium tanks in the world. Using Wikipedia and the list provided by Touropia.com  including a number of its visitor comments with their suggested corrections to the list, I can see there are many important distinctions that need to be taken into account.

The size of the aquarium’s tank can be measured in gallons of water – U.S. gallons or Imperial gallons, cubic ft. or metric volume. Often there are several tanks in each aquarium and their combined volume of water is used to determine its standing. Sometimes, the size of the viewing window is the measure.  In all circumstances it’s safe to say that the aquariums showing sharks and manta rays are some of the largest simply because these aquatic creatures are the biggest and largest in scale.

Here is an example. The Georgia Aquarium is commonly known as being the world’s largest aquarium. However, according to Wikipedia,

Georgia Aquarium (redirect from World‘s largest aquarium) it was the world‘s largest aquarium when it opened in 2005. Businessman Bernard its tanks hold 8million USgal. | 30,000 m3 of fresh and salt water. …”

and  the Dubai Mall with its famous aquarium is listed as number two in the world, holding over 400 hundred sharks and rays combined.

“The Marine Life Park located within Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore is the world’s largest oceanarium, with over 100,000 animals of more than 800 species in 45,000,000 l (9,900,000 imp gal; 12,000,000 US gal) of water.”

In 2010, Touropia listed the top ten largest aquariums in the world on its site. Visit it here http://www.touropia.com/largest-aquariums-in-the-world/  and view their amazing images. Notice the flow of readers comments with their suggested corrections to the Touropia list of top ten aquariums.

António Castanheira January 24, 2011 at 5:01 am ·

Nº 5 in this list should be the Lisbon Aquarium – 1.35 million gallons of water.

What’s on your list that counts? Does size really matter?

Click the reply button at the top right of this post. Comment and share your points of view.  Guess how long Toronto’s shark tunnel will be in Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada?

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