In an unusual collaboration, the Georgia Aquarium partnered with Red Brick Brewing to make Whale Shark Wheat, a new craft beer with an unspecified portion of the proceeds going to support the Aquarium’s whale shark conservation projects.
The name is, of course, a reference to the Georgia Aquarium’s whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) currently living in the institution’s 6.3 million US gallons (24,000 m3) Ocean Voyager by Home Depot habitat.
According to an interview with the Aquarium’s Chief Science Officer, Dr. Bruce Carlson, the sharks were originally destined for a Taiwan fish market (until 2008 Taiwan considered whale sharks part of the commercial fishery quota). A modified Boeing 747 was contracted to fly the sharks from Taipei, through Anchorage, and down to Atlanta.
While the ethics of having such large animals in an aquarium is certainly worthy of continuous review, these magnificent sharks were originally destined for death at the hands of fishmongers so the Aquarium is a much better alternative given the circumstances. They receive outstanding veterinary and husbandry care against a backdrop of more than 2 million annual visitors who will learn about the sharks and the Aquarium’s firm commitment to their conservation in the wild.
For its part, the Red Brick Brewery seems like a fine choice of partner. A signatory of the Brewery Climate Declaration, their proximity to the Aquarium means less resources spent on transportation. A quick Google Maps search shows that it’s just a 5.6 mile drive between the brewery and the front door of the Aquarium. Not bad at all. Whale Shark Wheat also appears to be slated for sale in aluminum cans (which have less of an environmental footprint compared to glass bottles if recycled, etc.) or by draught (which employs reusable kegs that can last more than 15 years.)
All in all, it seems like a promising and well-considered partnership on the surface and if the appetite for craft beer remains strong, this project has the potential to raise some significant capital for conservation efforts.