A great white shark died Friday at a Japanese aquarium after just three days in captivity since being accidentally caught and brought in.
The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium said the 11.5-foot shark sank to the bottom of a tank after refusing to eat.
The shark, which was accidentally snagged in a net off southwestern Japan on Tuesday, had initially seemed to be doing well, awing visitors who flocked to the large tank to get a glimpse of the world's largest predatory fish. But it soon started to show signs of distress as its swimming slowed and feeding attempts went ignored.
While aquariums around the world have developed the technology needed to exhibit other species of sharks, the ability to do so for great whites has remained notoriously elusive.
Great whites must continuously swim to get enough oxygen and maintain their body temperature and none have been successfully kept in long term captivity. The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California has kept several great white sharks for varying period of times before releasing them back into the wild — the longest being for nearly 200 days in 2004.
Keiichi Sato, a researcher at the aquarium, told the Associated Press that the staff abides by Japanese and international laws and believes its captivity programs contribute to education and science.
"Many visitors had asked us to exhibit the great white shark," he said.
But critics said the death was the latest example of a shark unable to withstand the stress of being held in a captive environment.
"The cause of death is clear: captivity," Jason Baker, vice president of international campaigns at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Asia, said in a statement. "The shark never had to die like this."
As the shark's condition rapidly deteriorated, aquarium staff moved it to a separate tank out of public view and tried to administer oxygen, but ultimately failed to save it.