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More valuable alive than dead: Shark tourism is far more profitable than shark meat
18 May 2011

The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) welcomes a new study by Australian scientists which promotes shark tourism as a strong economic factor. In the island state of Palau, which has been the first country to declare its waters as shark sanctuary in 2009, shark diving tours generate around eight percent of the GDP. In contrast, the trade in shark meat is much less profitable.

CMS Officer in Charge Bert Lenten said: “The findings of the economic value of live reef sharks also apply to migratory sharks covered by the CMS Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks. We hope this will convince more countries to explore and to benefit from sustainable ‘shark’ ecotourism.”

In its study, the Australian Institute of Marine Science found out that live sharks bring significant financial benefits. Shark tourism generates more financial wealth than shark meat. In Palau, tourists spend a total amount of 121,000 EUR for a single shark annually. In Palau, the overall revenues from ecotourism are estimated to amount to EUR 1.9 million for a single shark throughout its lifetime.

According to the study, shark species have more potential to be sustainably used as tourism resource than as target species in fisheries. In addition to contributing to the country’s GDP, the tourism industry also generates more than a million dollars in wages in Palau every year.

In East Asia, shark fins are primarily traded as a delicacy. Being top predators, the species’ natural mortality is low. Sharks might reach maturity only after 20 years and produce relatively few young. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 14 shark species are critically endangered and face an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

Some shark species covered by the CMS Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks are highly migratory, which makes it difficult to protect the species and its habitat across a global range. These biological characteristics make sharks particularly vulnerable with little chance to recover if overfished.

CMS is confident that the long term financial benefits of shark conservation will persuade more countries to implement conservation measures under the Shark MoU.

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