Essay: Why Won’t the Aquarium Return My Calls?

On Thursday, April 18, 1935, a nearly fifteen foot tiger shark became tangled in the lines of a commercial fishing boat off Maroubra Point, New South Wales, Australia. Still alive, the animal was taken from the water and placed on display in the Coogee Aquarium in Sydney. It swam continuously around its small holding pool, and did not eat for a week. On April 25th, its behavior grew erratic. It thrashed at the water with its tail and regurgitated several objects: pieces of another shark, a partly digested bird, assorted bones, and a human arm.¹ This story, nestled within the pages of Richard Ellis’s The Book of Sharks, is one of the reasons why, as a child, I fell in love with sharks. In a sense, it’s also partly responsible for my relentless outreach to aquariums over the past two months.

The first rule when it comes to communicating with aquariums is to not ask about their dead animals. Had I known that from the start, this whole process might have gone a lot smoother. But, as it happens, what began as an earnest interest in learning about sharks in captivity has morphed into a tale of baffling and potentially shady human behavior, one that ultimately presents a new insight into the lives of some of the most ancient and magnificent animals ever to grace our planet.

Like many children, I grew up enamored by sharks. Coupled with Richard Ellis’s book, I saw Steven Spielberg’s Jaws at a young age (too young, by most standards) and was, well, hooked. Sharks were these unseen mysteries of the deep, riddled with contradictions: captivating and dangerous, powerful, graceful, and terrifying all at once. What could have been a traumatizing viewing experience birthed a sense of profound wonder that I’ve tried to cling to over the years.

I wasn’t surprised to feel a flicker of sadness this past November when I saw a catchy headline about a whale shark that died at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. Trixie, as she was known, passed on November 27, 2020. At the time of her death, she had been there for fourteen years. On the day she died, the Georgia Aquarium released a concise statement via social media: “She was having difficulty navigating the habitat,” they wrote, “and then her health rapidly declined… Exhaustive veterinary and animal care efforts” were not enough to save her.² Evidently heartbroken by this animal’s death, the aquarium proclaimed that they were “proud to have been stewards of her care” and closed with a tender message directly addressing the shark: “We will miss you, Trixie.” I didn’t think too much about why I felt sad. A shark died, and she had a name. I like sharks, and I’m a person with a name. The aquarium said they were going to miss her. Straightforward emotional chemistry, I suppose.

Several months later, though, Trixie returned to me. I had enrolled in a Master’s Program at New York University, in Animal Studies, and was taking a course about humanity’s relationship with the ocean in all its many forms. In an attempt to rekindle that childhood wonder under the auspices of academic investigation, I poked around the Internet to see if I could find out more about Trixie. I remembered the aquarium’s statement: We will miss you, Trixie. What was it about Trixie that made her death so painful to those who cared for her over the course of her time at the aquarium? Did she have a charismatic personality? I mean, did she bond with a curmudgeonly aquarist, or perhaps befriend a lonely little girl who visited the exhibit from time to time? What stories did Trixie’s life contain?

News outlets repeated the same cursory descriptions of Trixie’s life.³ ⁴ They wrote that she was flown to the United States from Taiwan in 2006, then reprinted the aquarium’s statement, and peppered in a few colorful facts about whale sharks. Did you know that whale sharks are the largest fishes in the sea? They’re gentle giants, though, feeding mainly on plankton and other small aquatic organisms. Full-grown whale sharks generally range from eighteen to thirty-two feet long, but have been measured at over sixty. They face a number of threats, including entanglement in fishing nets and ingestion of ocean pollutants and plastics. The basic picture was that Trixie was a big fish that came from Taiwan and lived at an aquarium for over a decade. Ostensibly, that is her story. But it’s not a satisfying one, and a hunch told me there must be more to Trixie than meets the Facebook post.

A little more searching, and it became apparent that Trixie was not the first whale shark to die at the Georgia Aquarium. In 2007, the aquarium euthanized Norton, a young whale shark whose health declined over the course of several months, and who, near the end, had to be force-fed through a PVC pipe.⁵ Five months earlier, another whale shark, Ralph, died at the aquarium (Trixie, along with Ralph, Norton, and a fourth shark- Alice- were named after the four principle characters in the 1950s sitcom, The Honeymooners).⁶ In a 2010 blog interview, the Georgia Aquarium’s then-Chief Science Officer, Dr. Bruce Carlson, addressed the potential controversies surrounding these untimely deaths. “Of course they are better off!” he maintained, advocating for captivity and pointing out that the whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium had been rescued before they could be sold to Taiwanese fish market.⁷ (Taiwan has since banned the sale and killing of whale sharks.)

Scant details remained, and so the only way to really get at Trixie’s story was to go directly to the source: the Georgia Aquarium itself. Surely, they would welcome a conversation with a passionate, curious shark enthusiast (and student!) eager to learn about their flagship animal. I emailed the aquarium, earnestly inquiring about Trixie and what made her such a special shark. I leaned back in my chair and waited. But I didn’t hear back.

I called the aquarium and spoke to an operator who, upon hearing the purpose of my call, let out an audible sigh and quickly asked me for a callback number, indicating that someone would get back to me. I insisted on giving her my email address, too, and could barely finish relaying the .edu extension before she ended the conversation. I waited a few days, but no one returned my call. I went through the aquarium’s directory, tried their Media Relations office, and left a voicemail for Hannah Hardwick, the aquarium’s Public Relations Coordinator. Hannah never called back. I ascertained Hannah’s likely email address, as well as that of Kelly Link- an Associate Curator of Sharks at the Georgia Aquarium- and sent them each an email. I have not heard back from either.

I teetered between two vague conclusions. The neutral interpretation: the aquarium didn’t have the time nor interest in speaking with a Master’s student for his class paper. Fair enough. The Georgia Aquarium is one of the largest and most well known aquariums in the world, and I imagine they receive countless media inquiries. That mine was cast aside, or that it simply slipped through the cracks, is entirely plausible, and maybe even likely.

There is another angle, though. Perhaps the aquarium did receive my messages, loud and clear, was acutely aware of my inquiries, and actively ignored them because they did not want to speak about Trixie and their whale sharks- at least not with someone who hasn’t been vetted, who might paint an unflattering picture of their institution. That, of course, is a much more incendiary claim, one that I would prefer to back up with clear evidence. In our age of fake news, I do not want to add to the mix of illegitimate storytelling whose controversy runs the risk of overshadowing its message. I would like to advocate for sharks, but to do so truthfully.

While I waited by the phone, I further considered my fascination with Trixie, and my emotional connection to her death. I remembered that other whale sharks had died so, naturally, began to think more critically about the nature of shark captivity in general. Was there not something awry with the image of Trixie’s massive body being held in a tank? If there was, indeed, something “fishy” about the Georgia Aquarium’s unresponsiveness, then perhaps this points to deeper issues surrounding why an aquarium might be ambivalent about addressing questions surrounding shark captivity. Maybe they’re wary of animal rights activists tainting their public image. After all, much has been protested about the nature of dolphin and whale captivity, and popular films like Blackfish serve as clear indications that there are serious ethical concerns surrounding the maintenance of cetaceans in captivity. But cetaceans are visibly charismatic, social, and emotional mammals. They’re like us. Orcas, for example, have all manner of empathetic media identities- from Free Willy to Blackfish– to engender public affection. Sharks have, what? Shark Week and Jaws? As cartilaginous fishes, and not mammals, there is an undeniably larger chasm of relatability between our species.

Concerned that I might never connect with the Georgia Aquarium, I reached out to several other reputable organizations, armed with a handful of reasonably objective but direct questions about shark captivity. I indicated, without any clear biases, that I wanted to understand more about how and why sharks were maintained in captivity and, of course, to feel out why shark captivity might be considered a controversial issue. Wary of coming on too strong, I made sure not to frame my approach as one with an angle, let alone an activist bent. While I’ll admit that my gut was skeptical of the merits of shark captivity, I was and remain absolutely open to compelling alternative arguments. Brendan Pisarski, an aquarist at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Connecticut, graciously agreed to answer some of my questions, but not by phone. He asked that I send him a document with my questions, which he then filled in with concise, matter-of-fact answers. Without the ability to engage Brendan in a fluid, emotionally dynamic conversation, my questions fell flat and elicited dry, perfunctory answers.

“The most important thing to consider with sharks,” Pisarski wrote, “is the same for all animals in captivity, enforcing natural behavior.”⁸ An exhibit must promote natural swimming patterns and present similar stimulation to their natural surroundings. According to Pisarski, sharks do, in fact, display unique personalities, and “all have different temperaments.” To the question concerning the ethics of shark captivity, he wrote, “as long as the exhibit is large enough and gives them a natural environment, having a reasonable population size should not be an issue… with the proper care, sharks in captivity can be useful for education and research.” As grateful as I am for Brendan’s openness to speaking, I couldn’t help feeling as though something was missing from his answers- a certain measure of candor, perhaps. But, as is the case with the Georgia Aquarium, I didn’t feel I had enough evidence to make a judgment about Brendan’s attitude towards me or the sharks, and certainly could not wholly judge aquariums in general.

Fortunately, I made contact with Dr. Merry Camhi, the Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Seascape, an initiative that, per their website, “seeks to raise public awareness and take action to conserve threatened marine wildlife in the New York Bight.”⁹ Dr. Camhi’s work focuses on sharks in particular, and she has been a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Shark Specialist Group since 1994, previously serving as Deputy Chair and co-editor of Shark News. She was the perfect person to speak with. Merry’s schedule was a little hectic, she let me know, so we had to play a bit of email tag. Still, I remained confident that we would lock a time soon enough, and that she would provide the sort of perspective- maybe even closure- that I sought.

In the meantime, I reread Brendan Pisarski’s notes, carefully considering his comments about education, building suitable environments for the sharks, and proper husbandry. Brendan had also pointed me to an invaluable resource: the Elasmobranch Husbandry Manual, which details the practical science of keeping sharks in captivity (sharks, along with rays, are elasmobranchs, fishes characterized by their cartilaginous skeletons, five to seven gill slits, and pectoral fins that are not fused to the head). At nearly 600 pages, this is the book on captive shark husbandry.

Unsurprisingly, the book strongly advocates for the virtues of keeping sharks in aquariums. Among other points, it highlights that “Much of what we know about these inscrutable animals has been learned through observing them in aquaria.”¹⁰ The goals of the manual appeared to be well-meaning: to “assist in the understanding, protection, and recovery of threatened shark… species worldwide… provide quality conservation project opportunities for public aquariums… and establish the public aquarium community as a significant player in elasmobranch conservation.” Some of the many subjects that the book’s thirty-nine chapters cover include: historical approaches to shark captivity, species selection and collection, quarantine and isolation, design and construction of exhibits, water quality and life support systems, capture and transport techniques, acclimatization and introduction, safety protocols for diving with the sharks, behavioral enrichment, nutrition, food handling and feeding techniques, age and growth monitoring, reproduction and physiology, genetics, behavioral changes, physical examination and immobilization, diagnostic imaging, hematology, diseases, pharmacology, and necropsy, in addition to chapters on several specific species of shark.

It references a number of studies that indicate how special these animals are. Sharks can “exhibit relatively complex behaviors” and “communicate and interact with conspecifics and other species.”¹⁰ Sharks have the same five senses as humans, plus a sixth: electroreception. The brain size of many sharks is comparable to that of birds and mammals, a finding that undercuts the more common notion that they have comparatively small brains- a misconception stemming from early studies that focused on more primitive species. Sharks also exhibit learning behavior. Reef sharks associate the sound of boat engines and divers entering water with the presence of food. Many captive sharks quickly come to know the location and timing of their feeding sessions.

I sent another inquiry to the Georgia Aquarium, this time to an address I found for their media relations department. A few days later, I received a reply from Dr. Lisa Hoopes, the aquarium’s Director of Research, Conservation & Nutrition. She expressed a willingness to speak with me, but asked that I elaborate on my project further. The aquarium has “a formal process for requesting information for research purposes.”¹¹ I gladly explained, saying that I was an open-minded writer interested in learning about Trixie the whale shark, and about the nature of shark captivity.

A day later, I confirmed a time to speak with Dr. Merry Camhi, who insisted that I also speak with Hans Walters, a shark biologist and field researcher with the New York Aquarium. She told me that Hans was flexible for a call the next day and, in her subsequent e-introduction to Hans, told me, “I don’t think I could find another person IN THE WORLD [sic] that could better address your questions about the pros and cons of sharks in captivity than Hans, and he definitely has some opinions I know he’ll share.”¹² Merry sent my preliminary questions to Hans.

As I thumbed through the husbandry manual’s copious shark facts, though, red flags began to wave on the horizon, signs that captivity may not be so virtuous. One brief passage, for example, indicates that the transportation of sharks alone runs the risk of “physical injury, elevated energy expenditure, impaired gas exchange, compromised systemic circulation, hypoglycemia, blood acidosis, hyperkalemia, accumulation of metabolic toxins, and declining water quality.”¹⁰

The aforementioned husbandry manual constitutes the cumulative product of the 2001 Elasmobranch Husbandry Symposium in Orlando, Florida. A collection of papers gathered and anthologized from the symposium further troubled my outlook on shark captivity. One section delineates the immense complexity of the swimming patterns of sharks, and then goes on to say that, in captivity, “the entire [swimming] sequence… goes through an abrupt change due either to limitations in the size of the tank or a poorly designed tank shape which does not consider the needs of the shark.”¹³ It further highlights that sharks held in tanks must turn far more often than they do in the wild, an unnatural behavior that burns larger amounts of calories than they ever would in nature. Sharks are “doomed from the start to burn up excess calories,” which manifests in “reduced red blood cell replacement, tissue repair and general body condition, i.e., exhaustion and inevitable death.” Health considerations aside, the text notes that one of the fundamental criteria for determining the size of a shark exhibit is “the amount of money [they] have in the budget.”

To avoid running into walls, sharks must swim more slowly than usual (“like an airplane during landing”), utilizing excessive amounts of energy just to stop from sinking.¹³ Eventually, sharks learn that the longest straight line to swim involves hugging the outer walls of their tank. But this, too, “is not an economical use of energy, similar to an aircraft using more power when circling just to stay at the same altitude.” Furthermore, this circular swimming “results in an inefficient operation of the gills, since one side is partially closed,” thus requiring sharks to increase their speed in order to obtain adequate oxygen. In closing, the collection of papers maintains that the onus is on aquarists to pay careful attention to the sharks’ needs if they want to continue to keep the animals on display. “Only then will the public be able to appreciate these animals properly as they present themselves in their natural behavior rather than as swimming zombies just waiting to die.”

I still hadn’t heard back from Lisa Hoopes at the Georgia Aquarium, but the day came for Merry Camhi and I to speak over the phone. Our agreed upon time was 5:00pm. At 3:00pm, she sent the promised e-introduction to Hans Walters and me. About an hour later, I jumped in and emailed Hans directly, asking him what times might work for him the next day (after all, Merry had indicated that Hans was flexible). The clock struck five, but Merry didn’t call. I gave it some time, but the phone didn’t ring. She did say, earlier on that day, that her schedule was hectic, and that if by some chance 5:00pm no longer worked, she’d let me know. Hours passed, though, without a call or an email update, and I gradually accepted that, for whatever reason, Merry would not be calling me. In spite of my momentary frustration, I knew Merry had so far been nothing but cordial, so it seemed premature of me to judge her with anything but the benefit of the doubt. While I remained appreciative of her time and busy schedule, I couldn’t help noticing a strange irony at work. The difficulty in arranging seemingly straightforward conversations with aquariums was at fundamental odds with the organizations’ purported missions as educational beacons.

I recalled Brendan Pisarki’s invocation of ‘education,’ and began to notice the sentiment reiterated throughout the literature on shark captivity. In one paper, authors note that, “Aquariums keeping sharks are in a unique position to influence local, regional, and international attitudes and policies by acting as both educational and research facilities.”¹⁴ The husbandry manual touts, “Through entertaining yet educational experiences at public aquariums, guests are inspired to support conservation efforts for the inhabitants of the ocean… Aquariums are places of learning where we must inspire and motivate our visitors to care about the natural world.”¹⁰ These claims are compelling, and they sort of do make intuitive sense. One visits an aquarium, sees and learns about sharks, and must therefore feel somewhat inspired to care more about them, right? In fact, a 2007 study conducted by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA)¹⁵ was “widely heralded as the first direct evidence that visits to zoos and aquariums produce long-term positive effects on people’s attitudes toward other animals.”¹⁶

Three years later, though, several well-known scientists (including Dr. Lori Marino, a neuroscientist, cetacean expert, and outspoken animal advocate) conducted a critical evaluation of the AZA study.¹⁶ They found that the investigation had at least six major threats to methodological validity that undermine the paper’s claims. In fact, the authors conclude, “There remains no compelling evidence for the claim that zoos and aquariums promote attitude change, education, or interest in conservation in Visitors.” The paper’s “numerous methodological weaknesses render their findings difficult or even impossible to interpret.” The charismatic claims made on zoo and aquarium websites “greatly outstrip their methodologically limited findings.”

In Against Zoos, the philosopher Dale Jamieson comes to a similar conclusion. Though he speaks specifically with regard to zoos, his sentiments might be applicable to aquariums as well. He references research that indicates zoo-goers are “much less knowledgeable about animals than backpackers, hunters, fishermen, and others who claim an interest in animals, and only slightly more knowledgeable than those who claim no interest in animals at all.”¹⁷ He poses a compelling question: “Couldn’t most of the educational benefits… be obtained by presenting films, slides, lectures, and so forth?” Put another way, is it absolutely essential to education that these animals be held captive?

There is a case to be made on behalf of aquariums that working with and researching captive sharks enhances global conservation efforts. After all, “Aquarium researchers working with numerous shark species have gathered data on growth, age, fecundity, sexual maturation, reproductive behaviour, longevity, sensory acuity, physiology, the effects of water quality, genetics, cognitive ability and learning, and veterinary practices.”¹⁴ The 2001 symposium that generated the husbandry manual was organized, in part, to “assist with recovery and protection of threatened species, improve captive husbandry practices, create access to better conservation and research projects, and help cement the aquarium industry as a preeminent leader in shark conservation.”¹³

Curiously, though, a passage in that same manual points out that, “Relatively little information on reproduction in captive elasmobranchs has been published” and simply says that detailed research “should” be collected and disseminated via peer-reviewed publications.¹³ A recent study found that, since 1970, “the global abundance of oceanic sharks and rays has declined 71% owing to an 18-fold increase in relative fishing pressure.”¹⁸ In short, we are fishing- and finning- sharks to the brink of extinction. While a rigorous investigation into the matter is warranted, at first blush I struggled to draw a firm connection between understanding the science of shark reproduction and shark conservation itself. These creatures are not, say, pandas, animals on the verge of extinction precisely because they refuse to mate. The issue is not that sharks need to breed more in order to survive extinction; it’s that human beings need to stop killing them. Perhaps not coincidentally, another article on shark reproduction, also geared towards aquarists and not the scientific community, describes aquariums as “one of the most popular and profitable public entertainment enterprises,” noting that “sharks are invariably one of their most popular and prized exhibits.”¹⁹

Twenty-four hours passed and I still hadn’t heard from Merry Camhi, so I politely followed up. I also emailed Hans Walters again, recalling that Merry had twice indicated he was flexible on timing. Within minutes, Hans responded with a concise note: “I received your email and had email communication with Merry Camhi as well. I will be unable to assist you with your paper. I hope you are able to find Others who can give you informed, balanced, and fact-based information for your study.”²⁰ I still haven’t heard back from Merry.

I suppose it’s natural for me to feel a sense of unease over this seemingly cagey behavior. Something strange is going on with these aquariums, and a good part of me wants to vilify them. After all, everyone loves a good villain. Good, evil- narratives are just easier that way, to read and to write. I still don’t necessarily feel this is the time to make such a judgment, though. I simply don’t have enough direct evidence. And, in fact, in a pleasantly surprising twist, I just received a reply from Lisa Hoopes at the Georgia Aquarium. After a week of back-and-forth (mostly forth), she has forwarded my message along to Dr. Alistair Dove, the Vice President of Science and Education at the Georgia Aquarium and their resident whale shark expert.¹¹ Finally, the closure I’m looking for about Trixie and her captivity is in sight. I know I should be excited, and grateful, but for some reason I’m not. I’m losing interest in hearing what the aquariums have to say. In a way, I feel like I already have all I need to know about Trixie.

In 2006, she was hoisted in a high-tech life-support system, loaded onto a specially outfitted B747 freighter aircraft in Taiwan and flown more than 8,000 miles to Atlanta, where she lived until her death in 2020.²¹ Trixie was already fifteen feet long when she arrived.²² Baby whale sharks measure approximately twenty inches, and while little is known about the full extent of whale shark longevity, research into the correlation between their size and age indicates it is reasonable to estimate that she had at least several years of life behind her- perhaps a decade, or even more- when she was brought to live in a giant tank at an aquarium in a landlocked city in a country far from the places she knew.²³ ²⁴ Years of life, entirely unseen and forever unknown. Perhaps I should be less concerned about who knew what about Trixie, and more about what Trixie knew.

A century ago, back in Sydney, Australia, the arm regurgitated by that massive tiger shark was taken to autopsy. A coroner, along with several local shark experts, concluded that the arm had been severed by a knife, and not the jaws of a tiger shark.1 The shark was nonetheless killed and butchered. No other human remains were discovered. That, seemingly, spelled the end of the shark’s story. The human thread continued, of course, as it always does- it was a murder mystery, after all, and great fodder for a fun headline.

As a boy, when I first came across the story of the “shark arm murder,” as it came to be known, I was captivated by the intrigue of it all. I recently read more about it, though, and while it does indeed constitute a unique little story, the ultimate conclusion amounted to little more than a simple tale of organized criminals and petty disputes. Every plot point from the tiger shark onward fizzled out anticlimactically. What stuck with me was not the arm, but that unfortunate animal.

The thought of that creature, blessed by hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary perfecting, flailing about and vomiting in a pool that could barely accommodate its size and basic needs, let alone its natural tendencies, pierced my imagination. A distinct air of tragic morbidity infuses the tale. The shark was plucked from the steady current of its own life and subverted by a human narrative. I care far less about who was murdered, and more about why the shark had to be taken into captivity to begin with. Sharks are wide-ranging, complex organisms, and I find something inherently tragic about denying an animal the opportunity to fulfill its true nature. Whale sharks swimming over open ocean water of abyssal depths have been known to exhibit deep-diving behavior, plunging in excess of 1,500 meters in depth, through changes in pressure and temperature, time and space, that I will never fathom.²¹ The Ocean Voyager Exhibit tank, in which Trixie was held, is about thirty feet deep and climate-controlled. It was built by the Home Depot.²⁵

Why do aquariums place sharks on display? And why do some people show signs of defensiveness when prodded about their giant fish tanks? What does this tell us about sharks, and about ourselves, and how might we reconcile those answers with the currently imperiled state of global shark populations? These are, of course, human questions. Murder mysteries and villains, money and entertainment- these are human stories. But that’s not this story. This is the story of a shark, and it doesn’t belong to us.


References

1. Ellis, Richard. The Book of Sharks. Alfred A. Knopf, 1989.

2. Georgia Aquarium. Announcement of Trixie the whale shark’s death. Facebook, November 27, 2020, https://www.facebook.com/GeorgiaAquarium/posts/we-are-saddened-to-say-our-largest-female-whale-shark-trixie-passed-away-today-n/10158426162583124/. Accessed May 1, 2021.

3. Williams, David. “Trixie the whale shark dies at the Georgia Aquarium.” CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/28/us/georgia-aquarium-whale-shark-death-scn-trnd/index.html. Accessed May 1, 2021.

4. Associated Press. “‘We will miss you, Trixie’: Georgia Aquarium’s largest female whale shark dies.” USA Today, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/11/28/trixie-georgia-aquariums-largest-female-whale-shark-dies-dies/6453518002/. Accessed May 1, 2021.

5. Goodman, Brenda. “Georgia Aquarium Mourns Another of Its Whale Sharks.” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/14/us/14shark.html?smid=url-share. Accessed May 1, 2021.

6. Odum, Charles. “Necropsy held Friday for Georgia Aquariums whale shark.” Statesboro Herald, https://www.statesboroherald.com/local/necropsy-held-friday-for-georgia-aquariums-whale-shark/. Accessed May 2, 2021.

7. Shiffman, David. “Ethical Debate: Captive whale sharks.” Southern Fried Science. https://www.southernfriedscience.com/ethical-debate-captive-whale-sharks/. Accessed May 1, 2021.

8. Brendan Pisarski, email message to author, April 23, 2021.

9. Wildlife Conservation Society, North America. Staff Page. https://northamerica.wcs.org/about-us/staff/projectid/-1/currentpage/5.aspx. Accessed May 3, 2021.

10. Smith, Mark; Warmolts, Doug; Thony, Dennis and Robert Hueter, editors. Elasmobranch Husbandry Manual: Captive Care of Sharks, Rays, and their Relatives. Special Publication of the Ohio Biological Survey, Inc. 2004.

11. Lisa Hoopes, email thread with author. Multiple dates.

12. Merry Camhi, email thread with author. Multiple dates.

13. Additional Conference Papers from: The Elasmobranch Husbandry Symposium, October 3–7, 2001, Orlando, FL, USA. Drum and Croaker. 2004.

14. Grassmann, M., McNeil, B., Warton, J. “Sharks in Captivity: The Role of Husbandry, Breeding, Education, and Citizen Science in Shark Conservation.” Advances in Marine Biology, Volume 78, 2017.

15. Falk, J. H., Reinhard, E. M., Vernon, C. L., Bronnenkant, K., Deans, N. L., Heimlich, J. E. “Why zoos & aquariums matter: Assessing the impact of a visit to a zoo or aquarium.” Association of Zoos & Aquariums, 2007.

16. Marino, L. Lilienfeld, S.O., Malamud, R., Nobis, N., Broglio, R. “Do Zoos and Aquariums Promote Attitude Change in Visitors? A Critical Evaluation of the American Zoo and Aquarium Study.” Society and Animals, 126–138, 2010.

17. Jamieson, D. Against zoos. In P. Singer (Ed.), In defense of animals (pp. 108–117). Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986.

18. Pacoureau, N., Rigby, C.L., Kyne, P.M., Sherley, R.B., Winker, H., Carlson, J.K., Fordham, S. V., Barreto, R., Fernando, D., Francis, M.P., Jabado, R.W., Herman, K.B., Liu, K., Marshall, A.D., Pollom, R.A., Romanov, E.V., Simpfendorfer, C.A., Yin, J.S., Kindsvater, H.K., Dulvy, N.K. “Half a century of global decline in oceanic sharks and rays.” Nature, Vol. 589, 2021.

19. Castro, J.I. “A primer on shark reproduction for aquarists.” Reproduction of Marine Life, Birth of New Life! Investigating the Mysteries of Reproduction, 52–69, 2013.

20. Walters, Hans. Email thread with author. April 30, 2021.

21. Dove, A.D.M., Cocol, C., Binder, T., Schreiber, C., Davis, R., Carlson, B., Claus, T.M. “Acquisition, Husbandry, And Veterinary Care Of Whale Sharks (Rhincodon typus Smith 1828) In An Aquarium Setting.” In: Health and Diseases of Aquatic Organisms: Bilateral Perspectives (R. Cipriano and I. Schelkunov eds). Proceedings of the 3rd US/Russian Bilateral Exchange on Aquatic Animal Health. MSU Press: East Lansing Michigan, 251–258, 2011.

22. Tharpe, Jim. “Egging on the whale sharks.” Chicago Tribune. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2006-06-09-0606090107-story.html. Accessed May 1, 2021.

23. “Whale Shark.” Oceana.org. https://oceana.org/marine-life/sharks-rays/whale-shark#:~:text=As%20opposed%20to%20the%20other,20%20inches%2F45%20cm. Accessed May 1, 2021.

24. Perry C.T., Figueiredo, J., Vaudo J.J., Hancock, J., Rees, R., Shivji, M. “Comparing length-measurement methods and estimating growth parameters of free-swimming whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) near the South Ari Atoll, Maldives.” Marine and Freshwater Research 69, 1487–1495, 2018.

25. The Georgia Aquarium. Ocean Voyager Built By The Home Depot. https://www.georgiaaquarium.org/gallery/ocean-voyager/. Accessed May 4, 2021.

Cover Photo by Christian Garcia on Unsplash

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