Why SeaWorld's Tanks Are Hell for Sharks

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Posted June 10, 2016 by Kim Johnson

SeaWorld Orlando in Florida has proudly announced that its new amusement park ride, Mako—which is named after a species of shark—is the tallest, longest, and fastest roller coaster in Orlando. If SeaWorld is capable of building such state-of-the-art rides, why does it insist on continuing to imprison intelligent animals to “entertain” its visitors?

Here are ten reasons why SeaWorld should stick to building roller coasters and stop torturing sharks and rays:

1. It’s ironic that the new thrill ride is named after a mako shark, because back in 1978, SeaWorld captured two shortfin makos from their homes in the ocean near San Diego and put them in an enclosure. Once trapped in the exhibit, they swam stiffly and had trouble avoiding the tank walls, and within three days, they finally ran into a wall, sank to the bottom of the enclosure, and died. SeaWorld didn’t learn from this heartbreaking incident and instead has continued to imprison and kill different species of sharks ever since.

2. In the wild, some sharks can swim up to 45 miles in a day, and certain species must constantly move in order to breathe. Sharks trapped in tanks, like at SeaWorld’s “Shark Encounter,” are forced to swim in endless circles or back and forth and have been known to sustain injuries to their noses from constantly rubbing against the sides of the tanks.

3. The average shark in the wild lives to be about 25 years old, but in captivity, some sharks die after only a few days as a result of stress. You might remember hearing about the shark who died after only a day of filming for a Kmart commercial.

4. Earlier this year, a great white shark died just three days after arriving at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan. He had been taken from his ocean home on January 5—and was dead by January 8. Video footage shows that the shark swam in endless circles around the tank, refusing to eat as visitors gawked at him during his three miserable days there.

5. Sharks are sensitive animals who use eight senses, so tanks and noisy tourists may be overwhelming for them, confusing and frustrating them.

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6. Shark exhibits aren’t educational. Displaying many different species of sharks and other animals crammed together between acrylic walls doesn’t teach the public anything about sharks’ natural behavior, and it sends the message that it’s OK to bully and take advantage of others for our own fascination or amusement.

7. There have been many instances in which groups of animals were killed because of simple technical failures such as broken oxygen pumps. Entire tanks of animals have been wiped out at once.

8. Before Joel Manby became the CEO of SeaWorld, he was head of the Newport Aquarium in Kentucky, which had started a breeding program for wild-caught shark rays. One shark ray who was ripped from her ocean home died five days after arriving at the facility as the result of a “mating injury,” and an entire litter of six shark ray pups died within a month of their births.

9. Many sharks are naturally shy, but sharks and rays at aquariums and marine parks are often trapped in “touch tanks,” where they’re forced into close contact ALL DAY LONG with grabby children and tourists. This is likely a terrifying and stressful environment for the animals, who can be easily injured in these exhibits.

10. SeaWorld continues to cram different types of sharks and rays together in a tank so tourists can gawk at them while eating dinner or passing through a tunnel inside their prison. At the end of the day, after visitors have satisfied their curiosity, they get to go home to their families and lives, but the animals remain trapped there day after day, with nothing to do but swim in endless circles.

What You Can Do

Let SeaWorld know that it should stick to building rides and get out of the animal-abuse business! DON’T GO to any SeaWorld park until the company releases the sharks and all the other animals into seaside sanctuaries, where they can thrive in a more natural environment.


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