The global conservation of sharks may soon be worth more than the industry hunting it, according to researchers.
The newly emerging tourist industry surrounding sharks is worth more than US$314 a year worldwide and is expected to soar to US$780 million in the next 20 years.
In contrast, says a study published in The International Journal of Conservation, the value of global shark fisheries – which sees 38 million sharks killed every year to meet the demand for shark fins – is currently US$630 million and predicted to continue its decade-long decline.
The study’s researchers say the growth of shark tourism provides an economic incentive to preserve endangered species.
“The emerging shark tourism industry attracts nearly 600,000 shark watchers annually, directly supporting 10,000 jobs,” says study author Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor, from the University of British Columbia . “It is abundantly clear that leaving sharks in the ocean is worth much more than putting them on the menu.”
In Australia and New Zealand alone, 29,000 shark watchers are said to generate US$40 million in tourism expenditure every year.