Conservation dollars and sense

Jun 27, 2011
A new study in Current Issues in Tourism authored by Austin J. Gallagher and Dr. Neil Hammerschlag of the R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program studies the impact of sharks on coastal economies and the importance of including conservation efforts in long- term management plans. According to the study, in certain locations, a single reef shark could be valued at $73 a day alive, as opposed to the one-time value of a set of shark fins used for shark fin soup at $50. Over the course of that same shark’s life, it could be worth more than $200,000 using a conservative 15-year life cycle. Credit: Austin J. Gallagher

Shark populations over the last 50 years have decreased dramatically. From habitat degradation to overfishing and finning, human activities have affected their populations and made certain species all but disappear.

A new article in Current Issues in Tourism by Austin J. Gallagher and Dr. Neil Hammerschlag of the R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami study the impact of these on coastal economies and the importance of including in long term management plans.

The team collected data from a total of 376 shark ecotour operations across 83 locations and 8 . Oceania, The Greater Caribbean and North America ranked at the top for highest proportion of different locations offering shark tour services, and the Bahamas alone contained over 70% of all shark ecotourism in the Greater Caribbean and generated over $78 million in revenue in 2007. The Maldives saw similar numbers, and in 2010 banned shark fishing due to shark-based ecotourism contributing and estimated >30% towards their GDP.

"We know that for many countries, are an important piece of the economy -- in this study we wanted to examine their value as a recreational resource in a new and refreshing way by taking a global perspective," said Gallagher.

"It makes total economic sense for us to protect these resources, whether you are in charge of a coral atoll somewhere in Indonesia or working off the coast of New England—if the sharks can remain, the divers will follow and livelihoods can flourish."

According to the study, a single reef shark could be valued at $73 a day alive, as opposed to the one-time value of a set of shark fins used for shark fin soup at $50. Over the course of that same shark's life, it could be worth more than $200,000 using a conservative 15-year life cycle. The study also documented trends by species, and found that reef sharks and whale sharks are among the most well-represented in the ecotourism industry.

"Our study clearly shows that, economically speaking, sharks are worth more alive than dead; however, sharks are also ecologically important, helping maintain the balance and health of our oceans," says Hammerschlag.

Sharks reproduce very slowly, so even modest amounts of fishing can negatively impact local populations. But with appropriate conservation policies, sharks can begin their recovery, a road that could be both enjoyable and profitable through ecotourism.

"After the 1975 release of the movie JAWS, the general public felt that 'the only good shark was a dead shark,' however in the thirty years that have followed, this mentality has changed. A growing number of people are turning their fear into fascination and want to continue to see sharks in the wild," said Hammerschlag.

Explore further: Scientists discover tropical tree microbiome in Panama

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

As sharks dwindle, new laws enacted

May 28, 2007

Shark fisheries in Mexico and throughout the world are dealing with proposed rules to curb shark hunting in the interest of preserving these predators.

Ongoing collapse of coral reef shark populations

Dec 04, 2006

Investigators have revealed that coral reef shark populations are in the midst of rapid decline, and that "no-take zones" -- reefs where fishing is prohibited -- do protect sharks, but only when compliance with no-take regulations ...

Scientists track great hammerhead shark migration

Feb 28, 2011

A study led by scientists at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science details the first scientific research to successfully track a great hammerhead shark using satellite ...

Ocean's fiercest predators now vulnerable to extinction

Feb 17, 2008

The numbers of many large shark species have declined by more than half due to increased demand for shark fins and meat, recreational shark fisheries, as well as tuna and swordfish fisheries, where millions of sharks are ...

Recommended for you

Scientists discover tropical tree microbiome in Panama

12 hours ago

Human skin and gut microbes influence processes from digestion to disease resistance. Despite the fact that tropical forests are the most biodiverse terrestrial ecosystems on the planet, more is known about ...

How are hybridized species affecting wildlife?

16 hours ago

Researchers who transplanted combinations of wild, domesticated, and domesticated-wild hybridized populations of a fish species to new environments found that within 5 to 11 generations, selection could remove ...

Japan's whale hunt under scrutiny at IWC meeting

17 hours ago

Japan's intention to resume whale hunts in the Antarctic—despite a ruling by the top U.N. court—topped the agenda as an international whaling conference opened Monday in Slovenia's Adriatic Sea resort ...

User comments : 0