Great White Shark Dies After Just Three Days at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan

January 8, 2016 Updated: January 8, 2016

An adult Great White Shark captured earlier this week died just three days after arriving at a Japanese aquarium.

The shark died on Friday. Just one day earlier, the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium had stated on its website: “Although the difficulty in transporting and keeping living Great White Sharks in aquariums, we have succeed to display the shark in our aquarium.”

The cause of death is under investigation, but the shark had refused to eat since arriving at the aquarium.

A keeper had told the Wall Street Journal prior to the shark’s death that its food would include fish, squid, and pork.

“Every day is a new experience for us and we are learning many new things–this is a first for us,” the keeper said. 

Staff was busy trying to teach the shark how to swim inside a tank without crashing into its walls.

The shark appeared to be adjusting to the tank “but its condition took a sudden turn for the worse early this morning,” an aquarium spokeswoman said.

The 11.5-foot (3.5 meter) shark was accidentally caught in a net in southwestern Japan on Tuesday.

Chris Lamb, a visitor to the aquarium, saw the shark in the tank on Thursday. 


I went to Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa today to see the White shark. It is housed in a relatively small tank with other Bull Sharks, Tiger Sharks, Lemon sharks, Sandbar sharks, a sting ray, and a bowmouth guitarfish. (Sorry about the commentary, I brought my kids to this possibly once in a lifetime opportunity.)

Posted by Chris Lamb on Thursday, January 7, 2016

“It is housed in a relatively small tank with other bull sharks, tiger sharks, lemon sharks, Galapagos sharks, a stingray, [and] a bowmouth guitarfish,” he said. 

Great white sharks have historically not fared well in captivity, with only the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California displaying them for extended periods of time without them dying. 

White shark expert Michael Domeier on the Marine Conservation Science Institute’s Facebook page noted that the Monterey Aquarium takes pains to capture only baby white sharks, then introduce them to the display tank after conditioning in an ocean pen.

An official for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, Asia, criticized keeping the shark in captivity as “cruel and wrong.”

“The cause of death is clear: captivity. The shark never had to die like this,” Jason Baker, PETA’s vice president of international campaigns, told the Associated Press.

But aquarium researcher Keiichi Sato said the aquarium abides by Japanese and international laws and believes its efforts contribute to education and science.

“Many visitors had asked us to exhibit the great white shark,” he said.

After the shark weakened on Thursday, it sank to the bottom of the tank. Efforts to give it oxygen after moving it to a separate special tank failed.

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