Re: Great White Shark Released Off California

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Posted by on March 31, 2005 at 19:31:50:

In Reply to: Great White Shark Released Off California posted by on March 31, 2005 at 19:26:46:

The Monterey Bay Aquarium released the world's only captive great white shark shortly before sunrise today because officials said it was outgrowing its tank and starting to hunt other captive sharks.

Aquarium officials plan to track the female shark's movements with the help of electronic data tags attached to her.

The shark, captured off the coast of Orange County in August, was released just south of Monterey Bay shortly before sunrise. During her record 198 days in Monterey Bay's Outer Bay exhibit, the shark grew from a length of 5 feet and a weight of 62 pounds to 6 feet 4 inches and 162 pounds.

"We've always planned a release when the time was right, and now was the time," Randy Hamilton, vice president of husbandry for the aquarium, said in a statement. "Her health is excellent, we've learned a great deal during her time with us, and we have every expectation that she'll do well back in the wild."

Her rapid growth was a factor in the decision to release her, Hamilton said. "The larger she grew, the more that human safety and animal welfare concerns became a factor in our thinking," he said. "It's more risky to handle a larger animal."

Attendance at the aquarium increased 30 percent and gift shop sales were brisk since the shark was put on display in September. But the aquarium also drew protests from those who said the shark was not healthy and that wild shark populations could be put at risk as other aquariums try to snare their own great whites to put on display and boost ticket sales.

The Monterey great white had recently killed two smaller soupfin sharks in separate attacks. Opponents said the attacks were a sign the shark was stressed.

In a half-century of attempts, she is the first white shark to survive more than 16 days at any aquarium and the first to consistently take food offered by aquarium staff, authorities said.

The aquarium will begin searching for another young white shark to exhibit in its million-gallon tank.

"We've learned a tremendous amount about how to care for a white shark," associate curator Manny Ezcurra, who heads the aquarium's white shark exhibit team, said in a statement. "When she arrived, no one even knew if she'd survive or feed, or thrive in the exhibit. After six and a half months, she's done so well that we're releasing her because she's grown so much."

Officials said they learned a great deal from the shark.

"We found that she had a fantastic capacity to swim in the Outer Bay exhibit, and an impressive ability to heal from injuries," Ezcurra said. "We learned that she has food preferences, and that vitamins we've given to other sharks are also effective with a white shark. We've learned to modify our feeding and handling techniques to keep her healthy in the exhibit, and we've observed behavioral changes as she grew.

"From all we've learned, a second shark should do even better than the first," Ezcurra said. "We'll be able to draw on our experience of collecting, caring for and releasing a white shark."

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