Shark Kills Two Others in Aquarium

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Posted by on March 10, 2005 at 09:12:52:

A great white shark that has been held in captivity in California far longer than any other member of its species has killed two smaller tankmates, heightening critics' calls for the animal's release.

One of the soupfin sharks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium died Feb. 23 after an attack by the great white. The second soupfin died Tuesday from injuries received in an attack a day earlier, said Randy Kochevar, a marine biologist at the aquarium.

The year-old great white has been at the aquarium for nearly six months; no other great white has stayed alive for more than 16 days in captivity. The female shark came to the aquarium Sept. 15 after a halibut fisherman accidentally netted it off the Orange County coast.

Aquarium officials believe the 88-pound, 5-foot-3-inch shark attacked the smaller, slower animals only as a reflex when it bumped the other sharks, not in a predatory rage.

The animal hasn't attacked anything else in the tank, including a variety of tuna, California barracuda, black sea turtles and scalloped hammerhead sharks. Two other soupfin sharks have been removed from the great white's tank, Kochevar said.

Even so, some naturalists say great whites can't adjust to aquarium life.

"They really have huge travel migration routes. This type of animal typically travels 50 miles in a day,'' said Sean Van Sommeran, executive director of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation in Santa Cruz.

Van Sommeran said the million-gallon tank where the shark lives "is really just a bucket. ... His nose is raw from repeated contact with the barrier walls.

"This animal is injured and becoming agitated,'' he said.

Kochevar countered that the animal is under constant medical supervision and is healthy, and eventually will be released.

He said the aquarium has had 700,000 visitors come see the shark display, and researchers are gathering data on its biology and behavior they say will help in conservation efforts for sharks in the wild.

"We are doing something here that nobody else has done. ... And we have found that the very best way to inspire people and educate people is to put them face-to-face with the real thing,'' Kochevar said.

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