5 min read

Just Another Reason Why A Live Shark Is Better Than A Dead Shark

<p>Flickr: Willy Volk</p>

Amid the mass slaughtering of sharks, there are certain ecotourist locations that may make a difference in the rapidly dwindling population.

The practice of shark finning kills roughly 100 million sharks yearly, according to a 2013 study. In the same study, researchers calculated that between 6.4 and 7.9 percent of each species of shark are killed annually.

The island nation of Palau created the world's first shark sanctuary in 2009, where tourists are able to dive and view sharks swimming and living life in their natural habitat. The sanctuary has proven to be a major success for Palau, and it is possible that the country will entirely outlaw commercial fishing in its ocean territory by 2018.

The reason for the possible legislative action is due in part to the immense economic boost the country has experienced as a result of shark-related tourism. Palau President Tommy Remengesau explains that a single reef shark can contribute up to $2 million to the economy over his lifespan due to the ecotourists he attracts, according to Business Insider. "The ocean is our way of life," says Remengesau. "It sustains and nurtures us, provides us with the basics of our Pacific island cultures, our very identities."

Remengesau states that "We [in Palau] feel that a live shark is worth a thousand times more than a dead one."

Palau isn't the only locale which benefits more from living sharks than harvested ones. According to a 2011 study, shark tourism is present throughout 83 locations and 29 countries. The economic impacts of such tourism are immense, as visiting tourists not only pay for their diving experience, they also put money toward local hotels and businesses during their stay.

It is always important to consider safety and the quality of a tour company when looking into shark observation activities, and according to The Shark Trust, "Both cage diving and shark feed dives have issues surrounding them and individual companies operate along a spectrum of protocols which change regularly."

Below, a chart from WildAid's Shark Savers illustrates the lucrative value of shark tourism industries around the world:

(Source: Shark Shavers)

A study in ScienceDaily from researchers at the University of British Columbia elaborated on shark-based tourism as an economic boon, saying that it is estimated that shark ecotourism will generate roughly $780 million annually by 2033, as opposed to the $630 million-per-year shark trade industry, which has been in decline over the past ten years.

Says UBC PhD candidate Andres Cisneros-Montemayor, "It is abundantly clear that leaving sharks in the ocean is worth much more than putting them on the menu."

You can learn more about shark conservation and contributing to the cause at Shark Trust and Oceana.