Sharks in Aquariums
Shark in Aquarium © Frank Hoefken.

For many people the issue of sharks in aquariums is a highly contentious issue while others view it as an essential means of education.

On first thought it is easy to say that no large animal (marine or otherwise) should be kept confined in a tank or cage. However responsible aquariums are in a position to benefit conservation in many ways from contributing to captive breeding programmes to performing novel science.

Many aquariums will house smaller shark species that do not require much space in the wild, such as Smallspotted Catsharks, Nursehounds and Epaulette Sharks. This is a great way to introduce people to the amazing diversity of shark species that exist in our oceans. Larger Sandtiger Sharks are also frequently exhibited due to their docile nature.

The Shark Trust values responsible commercial aquariums that follow strict regulations in terms of fish husbandry and welfare. We recognise the importance of their role in conservation and work closely with a number of aquariums throughout the UK to raise public awareness of sharks and their conservation.  

In other countries, a few aquariums exhibit much larger sharks, such as the White Shark and Whale Shark. Whether this is right or wrong remains a prickly, highly personal subject that will continue to provoke debate.

However, it cannot be disputed that these exhibits allow millions of visitors each year to build a lasting connection with these magnificent animals, a connection much more powerful than photographs or even film could create. This in turn generates public awareness of the threats sharks face and a motivation to help them. If someone has never seen a shark, how otherwise could you encourage support or sympathy for an animal that is as alien to the wider population as the surface of the moon?

UK Aquariums