Saturday, February 7, 2009

Goblin Girl on... sharks in captivity!

Ok, I guess I SHOULD comment on the EU plan of action for sharks that was released on the 5th of February, but since both my hard drive and I decided to crash on the same day (no worries, it was just a cold for me and I had a recent back up of my hard drive so I didn’t loose that much data), I haven’t had the time or energy to go through it yet. I will return to it later.

So, my blog today will be about sharks in captivity. I have to admit that I have a very split opinion about this. Or maybe not… Let’s say I have an opinion. Here it is:

I love sharks! I love to swim with them, dive with them, watch others dive with them on tv and I like to see them ”live” in aquariums. For you, it might be the last statement that is the hardest to understand (since this is a blog which I guess mainly people who likes to go diving with sharks read. I often meet people who think that it is crazy to go diving with sharks!).

All my holidays I tend to plan so that I will either be able to swim with sharks or see them in nice aquariums.

But - there is always a but - I want the sharks to be healthy in the aquariums and I like diversity above ”mass consumption”.

I realize that any aquarium most likely is too small to be an ideal place for a shark. They should be allowed to swim freely in the ocean. Still, I think that letting people see sharks with their own eyes makes them more willing to help saving them. Sharks are not as easy to love as a seal pup or a smiling dolphin (I don’t know about that really – I have loved sharks ever since I could talk, but many people tell me about their fear of sharks). You have to work harder to make people as aware and fascinated as you are yourself. One way is to show them sharks on tv, an other to have them on display in aquariums.

But not all aquariums are ok. The film clips below were shot in Denmark. So far that is my favourite shark aquarium in the world. I guess the tank is a bit crowded, but the sharks look fine. No bruises or nasty wounds, no strange swimming patterns and a high diversity. I’ve been to several aquariums in the US where there have been lots of sharks – in fact, they have been lying in droves – but just 2 or 3 species. Those aquariums have not impressed me at all – although the sharks look ok. I don’t know if it’s because we in Scandinavia have to buy all our tropical sharks and ship them for lots of money to our aquariums – and therefore we can’t afford to overcrowd our tanks - whereas aquariums in Florida just go out with some fishing gear and takes as many sharks as they want. It could be that the sharks give birth to pups in captivity as well, but monocultures are boring and makes me a bit sick.

I went to a shark aqaurium in Germany. The tank was big and not too crowded with the four sandtigers that they had, but it also contained a poor lemon shark that was swimming in circles just above the floor. You could see a circle in the sand where it had been spinning around. That was very sad to see! Especially since I have since learned that you can cure this behavior with the correct medicine!

There is an other reason why that dive below was so excellent. As a biologist I know that nature is unpredictable. You might pay a lot of money to go very far away to end up with… scrubbing the boat from fishblood and not seeing a white shark for a whole day (that happend to me in South Africa in 1995). In an aquarium I know that I will have sharks around me – for sure! Also, since I took up diving I became what we in Sweden call an “ear child”. After a few dives I get ear infections and are not allowed to dive anymore for a while. If you spend a lot of money to go on a diving holiday you don’t want to get ill! Especially not before you have seen those sharks! Luckily I can snorkel ok and many sharks prefer that, but still there are some adventures where you will have to dive to see the sharks. The hammerheads off Cocos Islands are at the moment just a dream dive for me.

So, do I think that it is ok to have any specie of sharks in captivity? No I don’t think so. Some species adopt better than others to being held in captivity. That said, given the chance, I would gladly watch the captive whale sharks in Georgia, the white sharks that they have had in Monterey and the goblin sharks in Japan. I know it’s not politically correct, but if that is my best chance to see them “live” at all, I’m in.

In the best of worlds I would just have to grab my snorkel and jump into the water and be surrounded by sharks. For me here in Scandinavia, it isn’t as easy as that.

P.S. Since over 18 years I share my life with a pet tarantula. Yup, 18 years. In the wild, she would probably not have lasted more than a few years. Now we can look forward to say, 45 years together… Sometimes the sharks might be safer from predators – like humans - in aquariums… D.S.

Shark dive 2

Shark dive 3


Charlott - the Goblin girl said...

As you can see, I still haven't got a clue as how to embed videolinks nicely!

Shark Diver said...

We gotcha GG, new video's updated and may we say you're looking mighty spiffy surrounded by those sharks!

Adam and Marie said...

Hi GG,

Thanks for showing us what these dives look like both my husband and I are considering a U.K dive soon!