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Sharks In Captivity

Sandy's Story

During a peak of the race to acquire a great white, Sea World and Steinhart Aquarium were vying to be the first aquarium on scene when any great white shark was brought in. There were three chances between 1976 and 1980 when fishermen in Bodega Bay California reported capturing a live great white. Each time the staff of both Aquariums would try and reach the shark first, and each time the shark had expired before their arrival. The staff from Steinhart aquarium even became known as the SWAT team. (Steinhart White Acquisition Team).

Then on 12 August 1980 the SWAT team caught a break and were able to acquire a young female Great White Shark weighing approximately three-hundred pounds. She was then named Sandy.

For three days Sandy appeared to be adjusting to her new captivity, although she wasn't feeding as of yet. Then on the fourth day she began displaying a strange erratic swimming pattern and bumping the glass when swimming by a certain area of her enclosure.

Several inspections were done until finally the problem was found. In that one area of the tank there was a 0.125 milli-volt differential. Great White Sharks are very sensitive to electrical impulses. Sandy's Ampullae of Lorenzini proved to be even more sensitive to electrical fields than first realized. This anomaly could not be fixed easily or in time to prevent further injury to Sandy. That's when the decision was made to return Sandy to the Pacific.

Sandy was released near the Farallon Islands, one of the most well known Great White areas. Although knowledge was gained by Sandy's brief stay it also showed just how difficult captivity can be on such a majestic predator.

Still today marine biologists in aquariums around the world chase this dream of capturing and keeping a Great White Shark. Even now Monterey Bay Aquarium in California continues to capture and pen Great Whites. You can learn more about it by going to this section of their site: White Shark Research


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