Aquariums have made dozens of attempts since the 1970s to display a captive great white shark. Most of those attempts ended with headlines like this:
By the 2000s, the only group still trying was the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which spent a decade planning its white shark program. In 2004, it acquired a shark that became the first great white to survive in captivity for more than 16 days. In fact, it was on display for more than six months before it was released back into the ocean.
In the following years, the Monterey Bay Aquarium hosted five more juvenile white sharks for temporary stays before ending the program in 2011. It was an expensive effort and had come under criticism due to injuries that some of the sharks developed in the tank. Responding to those critics, Jon Hoech, the aquarium's director of husbandry operations, said:
We believe strongly that putting people face to face with live animals like this is very significant in inspiring ocean conservation and connecting people to the ocean environment. We feel like white sharks face a significant threats out in the wild and our ability to bring awareness to that is significant in terms of encouraging people to become ocean stewards.
Check out the video above to learn why white sharks are so difficult to keep in captivity and how the Monterey Bay Aquarium designed the only program that could keep them alive.