BUSAN, South Korea – Last December, Busan Aquarium in Haeundae came in contact with Keue Kunihiro, a 73-year-old fisherman living about an hour from Kagoshima, Japan. Kunihiro offered up an interesting proposition: Hammerhead Sharks. Apparently, he was privy to a spot off the Japanese coast where Hammerheads bred and offered the aquarium as many as they could hold.
The aquarium put in for an order for twenty new born sharks and Kunihiro went to collecting the infant killers. After penning them up just off shore and feeding them for a few months, the sharks were ready for what would turn into a 24-hour ride from sea to land to sea and back to land again.
At a going market rate of $7,000 per shark, getting them here alive was a major undertaking put together with the utmost care. Temperature controlled seawater tank trucks with modified anti-vibration holding tanks were pulled up and the sharks were loaded up for the drive across Japan to the ferry in Fukuoka. There, the trucks were loaded on the slow ferry to Busan.
Once here, there was the problem of getting the sharks ready for their new home. The waters off of Kagoshima are on average about two degrees centigrade warmer than the seawater Busan Aquarium pumps into its tanks in Haeundae. While the sharks were still in the trucks outside the aquarium, the staff slowly pumped in Korean coastal water while pumping Japanese water out. After this six-hour process, the baby Hammerheads were ready to be picked up in vinyl sheets and placed in their new tank here in Busan.
According to Y.P. Kim, general manager of Busan Aquarium, which is the largest aquarium in Korea, housing Hammerheads is a tricky business. “Usually, nobody wants to deal with Hammerheads, because of the risks involved.” Being an aggressive shark, who may very well eat their best friend, you can see the problems involved. In captivity, Hammerheads tend to live about six years.
If you have yet to see a live Hammerhead, it is well worth a visit to the aquarium which offers a wealth of sea life from all over the world in a very large multi-level facility under the beach at Haeundae. Unlike Gray Nurse sharks you see at most aquariums around the world, the Hammerheads are constantly moving fast, and the protruding eyes on the sides of their head provide for a visually stunning experience of these natural born killers.
“Busan Aquarium is delighted to have the opportunity to introduce this unique shark species,” says Kim. “As Korea’s leading aquarium, our goal is to continue to showcase the wonders of the ocean through awe-inspiring displays for our customers to enjoy.”