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« Great White Update: A Successful Release | Main | Cetacean Circus »

November 02, 2011



Its not the great white shark who is dangerous!
Its men himself who is the reason for all destruction!
Thanks for the reportage

pistol shrimp

It's true that I'm really scared of great whites sharks but that doesn't mean that I got happy when I found out that one of it died.


Meaghan Edwards

I am very saddened to hear of this shark's passing. I think you guys and girls at MBA are doing a terrific job and I can't wait to visit next year!

amazing blogger

I'm so sad to hear this. I know that MBA are just doing their job and for the best and for the sake of those great white shark.

Ken Peterson

Randy, thanks for your questions.

I checked with our staff veterinarian, Dr. Mike Murray, and he says the decision on where to release the shark is based on minimizing the time it has to spend in transport. That's why we've released the larger animals in Monterey Bay.

A return to Santa Monica Bay would involve a significantly longer transport time than even a release near Goleta.

The nursery waters cover a broad area, from Point Conception south into Baja California, defined more by depth, water temperature and habitat type.

As for the photo, it is definitely the young male. In younger animals the claspers are not as prominent, so it may look like a female in the photo you saw.

Randy Wright

Hi again MBA,
Oppps, I forgot to add something in my previous post.

Wasn't the GWS that you folks caught this past August and then displayed, which then died shortly after being released, a male?

Forgive me if I am wrong, but I do not see claspers in the photograph above of the GWS in your article, leading me to believe that the shark pictured appears to be a female. Is this correct? But I do see claspers in the short video linked, shot the day before he was released.

If so, might you give the recently deceased lil' male GWS some proper recognition and post a photograph of him?

Randy Wright

Greetings MBA,
Being an L.A. guy who surfs and is curious about our local Great White Sharks, I've seen some of your crew down here in the waters offshore of Los Angeles tagging juvenile sharks, while the Barbara H awaited. And I've seen the shark pen off of Latigo periodically.

Regarding this from Ken Peterson:
"As we did once before, we released the shark near Goleta so it wouldn't have to travel as far to get to its preferred habitat -- the warmer waters south of Point Conception. Monterey Bay waters are colder, and there's also a greater risk of attack by predators up here."

My question for you is this:
How come you do not release the juvenile Great White Sharks that had been on display back where you 1st caught them at, here in the waters offshore from L.A.?

Wouldn't it make sense to bring them back to their local habitat where they previously lived 'in the wild'?

IIRC, the last GWS, a female, that you caught down here in Aug. '09 was then displayed for a few months and was then released up near your area in Nov. '09. When she came down the coast, she never came back inside the Santa Monica Bay, only cruising outside by Pt. Dume and Palos Verdes, if I remember correctly. Maybe she earned a lesson, possibly?

The area where you folks come down to catch juvenile GWS is well known as a GWS nursery, hence I would speculate that it must be a fairly safe place for them to grow up.

I would think that it would surely be a lot safer for the shark to be returned to the same waters from where he or she was taken from, an area which it was already familiar with...



Visiting the MBA was an educational experience that changed my household a LOT. Even if the animals are 'more stressed' than they were in the wild (and I think the wild is actually a very stressful place), they ARE making a huge positive difference for ocean conservation by being there. Having one shark in captivity does a lot for all sharks, everywhere. I was always pro-marine-life, it's not like we went whaling on the weekends, but I didn't know that in most cities the storm drains empty trash and oil etc. from the street directly into the ocean, and I didn't know the difference between sustainable seafood and non-sustainable seafood, until I went to the MBA because I wanted to see the shark, and while I was there the MBA educated the heck out of me. I am the ocean-crusader in the household, now, but I wouldn't have been able to persuade the rest of my family to get on board with me without visiting the MBA so they could see, too. There is a huge difference between telling them I heard something about ocean conservation and going out to SEE it. I talked for hours and it did not inspire those kids to care the way a trip to the MBA did. And the MBA reputation as a serious institution helps the educational process too. My family can't discount it like they could 'some guy's page on the internet.' My husband didn't believe that shark finning practices really existed, until the MBA confirmed it for us. The kids thought sharks just rushed around eating people all day, until the MBA showed them the truth. They needed to see the real shark, acting like a peaceful fish, in person, before they would believe. We let the kids watch the Discovery Channel but every time you see sharks on tv they are whipped into a frenzy by chum and they are biting the boats and sensationally chomping on the cages etc. It's a very different experience to see a shark just hanging out. The MBA dramatically changed how they see marine life, how they understand the new legislation, our understanding of what we are doing to the ocean, and how responsibly our family shops for seafood. We have been watching nature documentaries for years and years. The huge difference in our household was made by going to the MBA and actually SEEING the marine life, in person, while surrounded and educated by the MBA's push for conservation.

Kathy Moore

I agree with Mr. Soriano's comment that motives matter. A display of live animals even in an educational setting is not the same as a captive breeding program and I don't know what evidence there is that our behavior changes in our daily lives after visiting displays such as this. Or is it just a day of awe and then we return to regular behavior. What do we do/say differently? There is a well-known social psychology theory that underlies a lot of our human behavior - cognitive dissonance - and putting a positive face on the shark death helps reduce our discomfor about it, when the facts might just be that it is not a good thing to do. Is the Aquarium concerned enough about individual animals? This death is being described in very human terms, a loss, so there must be a feeling or belief that something is wrong here and therefore the policy should be looked at very closely. As I read the comments I have come to not even like the term used, ambassadors. That's a very human term for a non-human animal. I just can't say carry on as before to the Aquarium.

Ron Soriano

Sending men in outer space, submarines that are submerged for weeks, biodome projects.... All these are examples of how confinement can be both humane and beneficial. Aquariums and zoos fall into the same categories.

I have read and heard some critics say that it is not right to keep wild animals in captivity, but many organisms' only hope rest in captive breeding programs and research projects that require captive specimens.

It is the motive of the institution that is housing wild animals that should be in question; not the fact that wild animals are being confined in artificial environments.

Kathy Moore

I am a former MBA member, and not willing to become a member again because of the captive shark issue and deaths. It now seems highly inappropriate. It seems more about the Aquarium promoting itself andd thinking it can do no wrong than about the safety and health of every individual animal.Wasn't it the videos of shark finning that changed attitudes --rather than putting one at a time on display as the Aquarium suggests? Maybe MBA should be less location based (visiting which requires travel by car) and more like National Geo, meaning you don't have to capture animals to promote them and their conservation, you find other technological means to display them.

Forest Peterson

I agree that capturing and keeping a wild animal - or any animal for that matter - in captivity is wrong. But, I also agree that the awareness provided by displaying captive animals creates an appreciation that will save many more. A nice Catch 22.

Ken Peterson

As an aquarium, living exhibits are THE most effective tool we have for changing public attitudes –- inspiring visitors –- in ways that will benefit sharks in the wild. We’ve documented, in surveys of visitor attitudes, that our exhibits are having these kind of impacts. Executive Director Julie Packard says the first white shark we kept on exhibit was “the most powerful emissary for conservation in our history.”

I'm certain that our efforts, and those of other aquariums, to change attitudes about sharks played a big part in a new law in California that bans the shark fin trade. The aquarium was also the lead sponsor of the legislation.

We exhibit white sharks because they are effective ocean ambassadors in ways that films and photos are not. By changing public attitudes and conducting field research that no one else is doing, we are contributing to better prospects for white sharks in the wild. That’s the only reason to have a white shark on exhibit at all, and the only reason we bring white sharks to the aquarium for short periods of time.

There may come a day when our animal care staff decides that benefit of inspiring tens of thousands of aquarium visitors who can see a young great white shark in person isn’t worth the risk to individual animals. We are not at that point, especially in a world where tens of millions of sharks are slaughtered each year, and where we need to change a lot of public attitudes if we hope to make a difference.


these animals were not created to be in captivity. They are here for a reason, and that reason is not human entertainment nor confinement. If you feel the need to continue this project may I suggest you put yourselves in a tank for a few months and perform similar studies to the ones you have on these creatures? Or just film them in the wild.


I do not agree with this method of spreading awareness for the prevention of killing sharks. Taking any species from their natural habitat inflicts stress to the creature. There is no way that a shark kept in captivity should survive when released, because they have been in an unrealistic environment. This is a very strange and cruel way of spreading the word, because you are catching the sharks just as other people do to contribute to their endangerment. I appreciate the organization attempting to educate people on the importance of sharks, but there are so many other ways to do this and they certainly did not take a professional and thoughtful path. I am a student, and I have done extensive research on sharks and given many speeches to prevent the killing of sharks. and are great websites to visit to help.

Heather Richman

It seems to me that educating the public (especially children) about sharks and other sealife, at a time when humans are over-fishing and shark-finning, can only be a good thing.

Furthermore, there is no way to know what would have happened to the shark if it had never spent time at MBA. Perhaps it would have died sooner - being finned or caught in a net.

I am a strong advocate for MBA. Your research and education of the Oceans is unparalled and brings all of us closer to the awe and wonder of nature that we rarely see.

I am sorry for your loss, but hope you will continue your research. The work you do is critical in slowing extinction of our ocean creatures.


I visited the aquarium for the first time since I was a kid. I won't be going back. I don't believe in or support keeping animals in captivity (unless they are unable to fend for themselves due to illness or injury). Before I went, I thought the shark had been brought there for rehabilitation. Apparently not. And I don't feel the "benefit" of educating humans is worth the cost of a young shark's life.

What disturbed me the most during my visit was all the visitors taking photos (using their flash) when there were signs saying "NO FLASH".

I can only imagine what the sea animals behind the glass experience when they see flash after flash going off. And there were no Aquarium employees around telling people not to use flashes. It was really disturbing and now the shark's death is additionally disturbing.

I find it difficult to believe that the amount of money taken in *because* of the shark exhibit doesn't somehow factor into your decisions to have them.

Shame on you.

Ken Peterson

@Kari, and so many others -- Thank you for all your words of support, and for sharing the stories of how you were inspired by your aquarium experiences. I will be sharing these with others on our staff, so they know how much their work is doing to making a difference for the oceans.

Kari K

My mother and daughter have birthdays just a couple days apart. We were lucky enough to spend the night in the aquarium on the 11-day shark's last night at MBA. It was truly incredible to watch how that little girl shark moved. Being able to watch her in the Outer Bay overnight really made me feel one step closer to our neighbors in the ocean. I don't think I slept more than an hour or two, as I was completely mesmerized by the peace and grace of all the animals in the exhibit. A deeper understanding and respect formed, and any last bits of fear of white sharks were erased. We didn't get to visit this most recent shark, but are still deeply saddened by his passing. I've been a member of MBA most of the years since it opened, and I can tell you, most of what I know about conservation in general, not just ocean conservation, I learned in your halls and exhibits and presentations, as well as all the e-communications. Thank you for all you do for the better of the planet and all of us that live here. Big hugs to all of you, and especially the shark research and care team - I know they must be heartbroken.

Ken Peterson

@Mark -- I definitely will; and I'll share your otter horror story with our veterinarian and sea otter team. It should go without saying, but we'd NEVER do anything like that!

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