MITO, IBARAKI PREF. – The Ibaraki Prefectural Government is planning to showcase a whale shark at an aquarium in the prefecture, officials said Monday.
The world’s biggest fish species will be welcomed at the Aqua World Ibaraki Prefectural Oarai Aquarium in the town of Oarai, which has some 400 specimens from among 63 shark species, the largest number kept at an aquarium in Japan, according to the sources.
Prefectural officials aim to secure a whale shark by the end of fiscal 2020 as they want to start showcasing it in three to four years, the sources said.
Opened in 2002, the aquarium in Oarai attracts over 1.1 million visitors a year. Recently, it set up a large tank for jellyfish in an effort to increase repeat visitors. The prefectural government hopes that a whale shark display will also help it draw bigger crowds.
As the aquarium does not currently have an indoor fish tank large enough to house a whale shark, the prefectural government is likely to build an annex to establish the tank — expected to be the biggest in the country.
The largest indoor fish tank in the country is currently sited at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa Prefecture, where it is home to a whale shark.
Four aquariums in Japan currently house whale sharks, according to the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums. They are Okinawa Churaumi, the Notojima Aquarium in Ishikawa, the Kaiyukan in Osaka and the Kagoshima City Aquarium in Kagoshima.
The Oarai facility will become the only aquarium in eastern Japan to host a whale shark. The prefectural government plans to earmark related expenses in its budget for fiscal 2020, which begins next April.