Ocean News

How much is that shark worth to us?

17th June 2011

Many divers love sharks. They are willing to pay a considerable amount of money to dive with these graceful predators. In that respect, sharks can be worth a lot of money. But how can you establish the value of a live shark, and is it even worth doing so?

In a recently published paper by Austin Gallagher and Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, a total of 376 shark ecotour operations across 83 locations and 8 geographic regions were identified. The authors describe the global, regional , and socio-economic scope of the industry, and conducted a case study in South Africa.

Nature-based tourism, often referred to as ecotourism has become increasingly popular in recent decades and has been described as one of the fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry (Scheyvens, 1999; Wearing & Neil, 2009). Ecotourism is broadly defined as an ‘environmentally responsible, enlightening travel to a relatively undisturbed or natural area to enjoy and appreciate nature’ (Ceballos-Lascurain, 1996).
Conservatively valued, the services of these ecotour operations are valued at 41 USD trillion per year (Wright & Boorse, 2008). Species in their natural environments support a variety of recreational activities and aesthetic interests including for instance fishing, hiking, snorkeling, and photography.

It our choice!

It our choice!

Do we choose this… or this?

In their study, Gallagher and Hammerschlag calculate that an individual reef shark could be worth approximately 73 USD a day if kept alive and used in ecotourism. In 2004, the average market price for a set of shark fins (from the family Carcharhinidae) was valued at 50 USD (Clarke, Milner-Gulland, Bjorndal, 2007). The authors present this difference, showing that the one-time daily usage comparison between 73 USD (alive, recreation) and 50 USD (dead, finned) creates a stark dichotomy.

Once feared and despised, sharks today draw significant attention and allure from people worldwide. Their importance to the diving and marine tourist industry is highlighted by the distribution, frequency, and value of shark ecotourism. This paper may be of particular interest to locations where sharks are regarded as a “national treasure,” whereby increased protection of these resources promotes biodiversity while generating significant economic gains.

So: say no to sharkfinning, but say yes to shark watching. Both people and sharks around the world will benefit immensely…

Austin J. Gallagher & Neil Hammerschlag.2011. Global Shark Currency: The Distribution, Frequency and Economic Value of Shark Eco-tourism. Current Issues in Tourism, 1–16.

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