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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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GADDAFI’S SHARK SHIP

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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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FURRY or FIERCE

sharkTwoOtters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been thinking about the soon to be opened Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and its marketing meetings during the course of its development. Like most aquariums they would have revolved around visitor approval ratings. Even though public aquariums are popping up all across the world at an impressive rate, and that some aquariums have reduced their visitor admission fees because of higher than expected attendance levels, it’s fair to say that most aquariums will undergo an element of disapproval and concern from special interest groups and even possibly members of the general public at large.

No doubt the subject of sharks comes up in these meetings. I can imagine everyone sitting around the board table discussing the absolute necessity for shark exhibits if for no reason, and there are some good reasons, other than to simply draw in the crowds in order to secure its necessary admission levels to guarantee its own survival.

Ironically, this thought brings me straight away across the country to an exhibit at the Vancouver Aquarium where the famous YouTube video of the two otters was recorded by a mom with her family. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at it here and even if you have already seen it, take another look, it’s captivating. This video has been viewed on YouTube more than 19 million times and holds the record for being one of the highest viewed ever. Now that’s what I call an attendance grabber.

What can we learn from this?  An experienced marketing friend said it boils down to being furry or fierce when it comes to public attractions. Maybe a bit of both? What are your thoughts on exhibiting sharks in public aquariums? What do you like best a tunnel or a big big, big tank. What about the otters?

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