Captivity vs. Wild
The questions whether to watch sharks in the wild or inside an aquarium is easily answered:
What is the difference between watching African Wildlife in a cage or during a safari out in the bush?
Would you rather see a lion inside a concrete Zoo enclosure or proudly roaming the plains of Africa accompanied by his pride?
Yes, it is convenient for us to go to a marine park to see sharks behind a glass panel, or even go inside the tank to swim with them. But in comparison to seeing them in the wild, a tank encounter is about as exciting and real as holding a lion cub in a petting zoo. If you are fortunate enough to be in a location where you can observe animals in their natural environment, you should take advantage of it. The opportunities are becoming more and more rare with every year.
We agree that many Aquariums are great institutions of science and education, such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the Waikiki Aquarium.
They give the public a chance to observe and learn about sea life. They have also done extensive studies on sharks in captivity and have developed good practices to ensure the welfare of the animals.
Most shark species are particularly difficult to keep alive in captivity. The mortality rate especially for larger species is high. Sharks are extremely sensitive to electric currents and vibration. Look at the tank enclosures surrounded by pumps, filters, lights and people knocking on glass panels and you can understand why sharks get disoriented and sick. The smaller species such as black tip sharks seem to do fine inside a tank. Larger animals, such as tiger sharks and great white sharks suffer and most often die within a short period when in captivity. They are just not made to be inside a small cubicle made of glass and metal.
Ask any conservationist that has dedicated his/her life to protecting anything in the natural world, and most of them will tell you their inspiration came from seeing animals in the wild, or having special encounters with animal in their natural surrounding.
Aquariums have a purpose for education, but true inspiration for kids comes from being out in the ocean, from feeling, breathing and seeing nature and from having that special connection and impact that only a real life experience can provide.[/fullwidth]