whale sharkThis has been a really weird (read: bad) day for various reasons that I won’t bore you with. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse — I read in our forums that yet another whale shark — “Norton” — died today.

First of all, whale sharks are some of my favorite animals on the planet, I’m awed by them and diving with them was as close to a religious experience as I’ve ever come. Second, these whale sharks are in my “backyard” — which allows me the privilege of going to see them at the Georgia Aquarium — though it’s a privilege I would happily give up given my distaste for keeping these animals in captivity.

We gave a statement to CNN when the aquarium first opened that we (MarineBio) don’t agree with keeping these animals. My rationale was that they would grow too large to live a healthy life in what amounts to shallow water for them.

I would have protested much more loudly had I known that the Georgia Aquarium would lose not 1 but 2 whale sharks because of unclear circumstances that I’m certain have to do with the lack of knowledge about keeping these animals in captivity.

So what’s the fate of the 3 remaining whale sharks? And how many more whale sharks will the Georgia Aquarium kidnap from their natural habitat before the benefits of profit are outweighed by the benefits of keeping these animals happy and healthy and ALIVE in the ocean where they belong?

From CNNI:

Aquarium loses second whale shark in a year

ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) — Another whale shark died early Wednesday at the Georgia Aquarium, the second this year at the only facility outside Asia to display the huge, rare fish.

Norton’s death came just a few weeks after two new whale sharks arrived at the aquarium from Taiwan. At that time, Taiwan fishery officials had said they were satisfied the aquarium provided the quality care the young whale sharks would need.

Aquarium officials said in a written statement Wednesday that Norton had stopped eating in recent months and showed erratic swimming behavior.

They said the staff had noticed a decline in Norton’s swimming behavior on Tuesday and blood work confirmed a decline in his health. Early Wednesday, the whale shark stopped swimming and settled to the bottom of his tank, aquarium officials said.

Divers brought him to a stretcher, and “after every option had been exhausted to improve Norton’s health, the team made the decision to humanely euthanize him,” the aquarium said. (Watch the latest report on the death of Norton Video)

In January, Ralph, another whale shark that was among the aquarium’s first stars after it opened in 2005, also died there.

Ralph had stomach problems that led to an inflammation of a membrane in his abdomen, according to aquarium officials. The aquarium has theorized that a chemical it no longer uses in the tank to treat parasites might have contributed to his loss of appetite and health problems.

The two new whale sharks, Yushan and Taroko, join Alice and Trixie in the aquarium’s 6-million-gallon tank. The sharks can grow up to 40 feet long.