Portofino Resort- Now with a new BEACH BAR!!
Topic Options
#78423 - 01/12/04 10:35 AM Whale Sharks in Captivity?
Marty Offline
This is an article from this weekend's Amandala. Friends of Nature, the
southern Belize NGO headquartered in Placencia, the organization heavily
involved in this "transaction," doesn't like (in fact, vehemently
objects) to the characterization of this proposal as the "sale" of whale
sharks. So, ok, let's say the transfer of two whale sharks into
captivity in Atlanta Georgia in return for a "donation" to Friends of
Nature. (wink, wink)

If you have an opinion about this "transfer," contact information is at
the end of the article.

Whale Sharks in Captivity?
By Lisa Carne
B.Sc. Marine Biology

Whale sharks in captivity.that sounds like an oxymoron! What is
an oxymoron? When two contradictory terms are combined, like
"jumbo-shrimp", "fresh-frozen", or "deafening silence".A whale shark is
the world's largest fish, by some accounts growing up to 60 ft (20 m)
long and weighing over 2 tonnes so how could it possibly be contained in
a tank or aquarium?

Leave it to the Japanese to find a way, albeit through trial and
error. From 1980-1998 the Okinawa aquarium has been through 16 whale
sharks, all dead now. They were kept in a tank 88 feet by 39 feet and
just 11 feet deep. Whale sharks in the wild can range up to 20,000 km
and dive down to depths of 1500 m (5000ft)! So it's a small wonder that
the fishes' life span in a tank was as short as three days, to a maximum
of five years. Five years sounds pretty good? Not when you consider that
a whale shark in the wild can live up 100 years and most are not even
sexually mature till after 30 years of age!

What little we know about whale sharks comes from research in
the wild, observers diving with the sharks and satellite tags telling us
their distribution, range, and diving depths.

Whale sharks are found all over the world in tropical oceans,
except the Mediterranean Sea. They aggregate (come together in groups)
in Australia, the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles, the Gulf of Mexico,
Honduras and Belize. They are currently protected in all of these
countries as tourism has blossomed around the chance of a wild encounter
with whale sharks, and a living whale shark is worth more than the price
of its fins.

This protection is recent though; as late as the year 2000, 1500
whale sharks were slaughtered for their meat and fins in India. Illegal
hunting continues and there are many other countries where the whale
shark is not protected at all: every year 100 sharks are killed in
Taiwan, where they are known as the "tofu shark' because of their soft
Whale sharks are now listed on CITES Appendix II, meaning all trade must
be reported. And they are listed on the IUCN Red List as "vulnerable".
This vague distinction means we don't really know how many whale sharks
are left in the world but we do know they are being over-harvested, like
so many of our marine resources.

Belize and Placencia specifically, is one of the rare locations
in the world where whale sharks can be reliably and predictably
encountered. Every year in the months April-June and even July, whale
sharks congregate at Gladden Spit shortly after the full moon, to feed
on the snapper spawn. Tourists readily pay upwards of US$150 a day
(after their airfare and lodging) for a chance to see a whale shark in
the wild. Local Tour Guides must take a special course to learn about
the sharks and guidelines for interactions with them (distance away from
the sharks, number of people in the water at one time, etc.) Lauren
Hutton, a famous model/actress with a jetsetting adventure agenda and
the fortune to back it, said diving with the whale sharks in Belize was
the single greatest experience of her life. With all these tourist
dollars coming into Belize over the whale sharks, why would anyone think
of putting them in a tank?

Aquariums have been around since the late1800's. WAZA, the World
Association for Zoos and Aquariums, represents over 1000 institutions
and estimates over 6 million visitors a year. Japan has at least 10
aquariums: one of them houses two whale sharks in a 30 foot tall tank
along with mantas and tunas. With visitors averaging 8500 a day at about
$20 US apiece, that's $170,000 USD A DAY!

Many of these same Japanese aquariums house marine mammals such
as dolphins and killer whales. Although most aquariums cite "research
benefits' as justification for housing large animals, the Japanese
cannot be confused with conservationists. They are the inventors of
"drive fisheries": the practice of herding 100's of dolphins or whales
into a shallow cove or inlet. The aquarium representatives then pick a
few (maybe six) specimens to keep in a tank, and the rest are
slaughtered for meat.

Sea World now wants to get in on the Japanese program. Marine
mammals are too protected in the US waters: the Governor and the whole
state of Alaska rejected Sea World's request to capture their killer
whales, so they look to Japan. Japan looked to Norway in 1999, who
denied permits to capture whales based on public outcry and opposition.
Lest you be confused over the "education versus entertainment value" of
marine parks, George Millay, Sea World's founder, cleared it up in 1989
when he said; "Sea World was created strictly as entertainment. We
didn't try to wear this false façade of educational significance." Sea
World's entrance fee is $30 US for children and up to $58 US for adults.

Since the early 1980's aquariums have become the trend in the US
to revitalize cities and waterfronts. Witness the Monterrey Bay Aquarium
in California: even with an entrance price of ??$ it still attracts over
2 million visitors a year. But that's not enough: now they want to be
the first to have a great white shark (life span in captivity: 3 weeks)
to draw in more paying customers. The top six aquariums in the States
average at least a million visitors a year, with each trying to
out-compete the other for the largest tanks (4.5 million gallons), the
most animals (124,000), the most rare species (beluga whales, great
whites) and now, the only whale sharks.

Newest on the list is Atlanta, Georgia with a 200 million USD
aquarium scheduled to open in 2005. They will boast the largest tank (5
million gallons), and two whale sharks, a male and a female. Who will
give up the whale sharks? Not Japan.but Belize? Belize, Land of the Free
by the Caribbean Sea?

The proposal is underway. Belize has just 106 identified whale
sharks, only 5 of which are female. Removing a female would be reducing
the breeding potential by 20%, and removing any two sharks would be
removing two too many. Last season Tour Guides saw at the most eight
sharks, whereas in previous years they saw up to 22.

Don't let the propaganda fool you: there has been zero success
for captive breeding and reintroduction of marine animals to the wild.
So what will they learn about the whale shark behind glass? Not its
population, nor its distribution, not even its natural feeding or mating
habits. They will learn, as Japan did, that the whale shark feeding
requirements are up to 11% of its body mass!

Remember what the late-great Jacques Cousteau said, "No
aquarium, no tank in a marine park, no matter how spacious it may be,
can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea".

If you have an opinion on this, call the Fisheries Department
and voice your concern! 223- And call Friends of Nature in Placencia,
523-3377, let them know what you think. Because animal welfare aside,
the real question for Belize is whether or not a tourist will still pay
$1000's of US dollars and brave the rough seas for a chance encounter
with a whale shark in the wild when they could spend mere 100's to be
guaranteed one behind glass.

Thanks to Rachel Graham and the Darwin Institute for providing
information for this article. If you would like more information on
captive marine mammals, Japanese drive fisheries, whale sharks, or
anything else mentioned in this article, contact me at lisas@btl.net.

#78424 - 01/12/04 11:20 AM Re: Whale Sharks in Captivity?
Pedro1 Offline
An interesting question "Do these people support the Belize Zoo?"

#78425 - 01/12/04 11:40 AM Re: Whale Sharks in Captivity?
bywarren Offline
Pedro makes a very interesting point about the zoo, a very similar concept to what Friends of Nature is objecting to ie: animals in captivity. This, to me, is another example of one organiztion, Friends of Nature, attempting to utilize a Belize resource for their advantage, most probably financial. What gives one group or special interest in Belize the right to use a resource belonging to all the Belize people for their exclusive use? Friends of Nature, FYI, has proposed that only certain boats and guides be licensed to take people to view the whale sharks. I have gone with my guide for years to see the whale sharks in April and May. He is a licensed tour guide and has fished these waters for most of his 68 years. Long before Friends of Nature ever showed up in Belize.

PS: I agree about not capturing the whale sharks to send to an aquarium. I just do not agree with Friends of Nature attempting to restrict some Belizeans from responsibly using a Belize resource.

#78426 - 01/12/04 01:46 PM Re: Whale Sharks in Captivity?
Badco Offline
Nothing good can come from this........


Click for excellent scuba lessons with Elbert Greer!

Things to do

Daily News
Daily Weather

Classified Ads
San Pedro Sun
Ambergris Today
SP Town Council
Channel 7
Channel 5
Love FM
The Reporter
Caye Caulker

TV Newscasts
Radio Stations

Click for our
Search thousands of Belizean-only websites

Event Guides
Event Calendar
Specials & Events
Things to Do
iTravel Belize
Paradise Theater

San Pedro Scoop!
Tia Chocolate
My Beautiful Belize
I-Travel Belize
Belize Adventure
Belize Hub
Romantic Travel
Bound for Belize
Conch Creative
As The Coconuts Drop
More Blogs...
Search thousands of Belizean-only websites
Chaa Creek is an award-winning luxury Belize Resort, rated as one of the worlds best Eco Lodges. We are a pioneer in adventure travel to Belize since 1981!
White Sands Dive Shop - 5 Star PADI Dive Facility - Daily diving, SCUBA instruction and Snorkeling
Caribbean Inspired All Natural Condiments & Spice Blends, Over 100 are Gluten Free!
We manage a variety of homes, apartments, condos and commercial properties here on Ambergris Caye. Our minimum lease on ALL properties is six months.
Conch Shell Inn: All rooms are right on the beach in the heart of San Pedro, so within walking distance to anything and everything!!
Lil’ Alphonse has snorkel equipment to fit anyone as well as Marine Park Tickets and flotation devices to assist those not as experienced.
Coastal Xpress offers a daily scheduled ferry run to most resorts, restaurants and private piers on the island of Anbergris Caye. We also offer  private and charter water taxi service.
Mini Chat

Cayo Espanto
Click for Cayo Espanto, and have your own private island
More Links
Click for exciting and adventurous tours of Belize with Katie Valk!
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31
Who's Online
0 registered (), 32 Guests and 7 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Stats
18,638 Registered Members
44 Forums
63,734 Topics
461,302 Posts

Most users ever online: 1,262 @ 06/10/07 02:16 PM

AmbergrisCaye.com CayeCaulker.org HELP! Visitor Center Goods & Services San Pedro Town
BelizeSearch.com Message Board Lodging Diving Fishing Things to Do History
BelizeNews.com Maps Phonebook Belize Business Directory
BelizeCards.com SanPedroDaily.com Picture of the Day

The opinions and views expressed on this board are the subjective opinions of Ambergris Caye Message Board members
and not of the Ambergris Caye Message Board its affiliates, or its employees.