Conservationists are outraged by a great white shark who’s being held in captivity. Photo: courtesy of Oki Churaumi.

Footage showing a great white shark on display in a Japanese aquarium has generated a flood of criticism on social media.

The accompanying video clip, which is being widely shared on shark-themed Facebook pages, shows a white shark navigating a fairly large tank at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium.

The shark, a 12-foot specimen captured recently and donated by members of the Yomitan Village Fishing Cooperative, went on exhibit Tuesday and is billed as the only great white shark currently on public display.

It remains unclear how long the aquarium intends to keep the apex predator. (Messages sent to the aquarium had not been answered at the time of this post.)

Experts have pointed out that white sharks do not respond well to captivity. Many have died, and since white sharks are protected throughout much of the world, most have given up trying.


Great white shark swims by the glass in this video screen grab.

Only the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California has successfully displayed white sharks, after obtaining permits. The aquarium has tagged and released its sharks as soon as they've shown signs of stress, or have become too large.

Reads a statement from white shark expert Michael Domeier on the Marine Conservation Science Institute's Facebook page: “Only the Monterey Aquarium has done this with some success, but they captured baby white sharks and introduced them to the display tank after conditioning in an ocean pen.”

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has put six white sharks on exhibit since 2004, and spokesman Ken Peterson says it's the only facility “to successfully exhibit white sharks for more than 16 days, to consistently get them take food that we offered, and to successfully return the sharks to the wild.”

The aquarium last exhibited a young white shark in 2011, and has no plans to exhibit another white shark in the foreseeable future.

White sharks, once they reach about 12 feet, begin to feed on marine mammals instead of fish.

The Okinawa facility has implied in reports that the shark is only a temporary resident, and has not advertised its presence on its website. But a few short video clips are posted on its Facebook page.

Reads one recent comment on the page: “Release the great white shark! They can not be kept in captivity, many have tried and failed for a reason!!! There are so few left in the world you are aiding their demise!!”

The video also was shared on the White Shark Advocacy group’s Facebook page, where it generated similar responses among shark conservationists and experts.

This comment appears to echo the general sentiment:

“Animals generally are only kept in captivity to make money; that will be the ultimate goal, regardless if they are plastering this over the world to advertise or not…. At the end of day I will never agree for such a beautiful creature as a white shark to be caged.”

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