The juvenile great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) that was added last summer to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s million gallon Open Sea Exhibit and released October 25 has died, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Officials at the aquarium who were concerned with how the shark was swimming in the exhibit and made the decision to release the apex predator after 55 days in captivity are at a loss as to why the shark died.
“While we determined it was best not to keep him on exhibit any longer, we had no reservations about whether the shark would do well in the wild,” aquarium veterinarian Dr. Mike Murray said in a statement released by the aquarium. “That’s why his death is both distressing and puzzling.”
The four foot 10-inch, 52 pound shark was captured in a purse seine net off the southern California coast near Malibu, a popular surfing beach. It grew three inches and gained approximately 10 pounds while at the aquarium.
This marks the first time a juvenile great white shark has died unexpectedly after being housed at the aquarium and released. Another shark was killed after being captured in a net off Mexico, but the other released sharks have thrived. The aquarium first successfully kept a juvenile white shark back in August 2004. That shark was caught off Huntington Beach, California by commercial fisherman. This animal started the Project White Shark exhibit at the aquarium. As with the previous juvenile great white sharks temporarily housed at the aquarium, this shark was released fitted with a device that tracked itsmovements including how deep it dives. The electronic tag the shark carried popped free on October 29. The stored data in the device began transmitting the next day and the tag was recovered that afternoon. The aquarium’s white shark team received the transmitter on Nov. 1 and is currently examining the data.
The sharks have stayed at the aquarium for as little as 11 days to more than 200 days. All the sharks are monitored daily and in the event that the shark isn’t doing well, as in the case of shark number 4, a female that was kept for just 11 days due to it only eating once, or in the case where the shark became overly aggressive to other fish in the tank, as is the case with the 5th shark at the exhibit, they are released. All the sharks are just temporary visitors and are eventually released when circumstances in the shark’s behavior warrant their release.