The Monterey Bay Aquarium announced that it will suspend showing juvenile great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) at its aquarium due in part to a push to get the wildly misunderstood apex predator listed as a federally protected endangered species. In August 2012, Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Shark Stewards filed a petition with the U.S. federal government to list the great white shark population off the California coast as an endangered species. The animal is currently protected under the California Endangered Species Act.
The aquarium is known to take in juvenile great whites that were captured in fishing nets off the coast of California and keeping them for various durations in its 1 million gallon Open Sea Exhibit. Aquarium staff observe their behaviors and in the event they see the animal in distress or behaving erratically, the aquarium moves to release the animal. The shortest duration a great white stayed in the exhibit is 11 days with the the longest duration at more than 200 days.
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Five of the six releases were successful. A four foot 10-inch 52 pound juvenile that was captured in a purse seine net off the Southern California coast in 2011 died shortly after being released from 55 days in captivity. At the time, Dr. Mike Murray, the aquarium’s veterinarian, said that the shark’s death was distressing and puzzling, as they had no reservations about whether the shark would do well after it was released.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is conducting a status review on the species and is expected to complete the review in March 2014. Anyone who wishes to comment or submit data to the department may do so at
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Attn: White Shark Status Report
4665 Lampson Avenue, Suite C
Los Alamitos, CA 90720