Every living being is important, however in a transnational-based society everything has a price label on it, even humans. A recent study, for instance, has assessed the economic value of sharks, both alive and dead. The researchers involved in the study found that shark ecotourism currently generates more than US$314 million annually worldwide and is expected to more than double to US$780 million in the next 20 years. Considering shark fisheries worldwide generated some $630 million, on decline for more than a decade, one can claim that sharks are effectively worth more alive in the ocean than on the menu.
Besides the economic value, sharks themselves are valuable in a sense that can never be appreciated in money. Unfortunately, some 38 million sharks were killed in 2009 to feed the global fin trade alone.
“The emerging shark tourism industry attracts nearly 600,000 shark watchers annually, directly supporting 10,000 jobs,” says Andres Cisneros-Montemayor, a PhD candidate with UBC’s Fisheries Economics Research Unit and lead author of the study. “It is abundantly clear that leaving sharks in the ocean is worth much more than putting them on the menu.”
“Sharks are slow to mature and produce few offspring,” says Rashid Sumaila, senior author and director of UBC’s Fisheries Centre. “The protection of live sharks, especially through dedicated protected areas, can benefit a much wider economic spectrum while helping the species recover.”
To reach these conclusions, scientists at University of British Columbia, the University of Hawaii and Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur in Mexico, examined shark fisheries and shark ecotourism data from 70 sites in 45 countries. Findings appeared in the journal Oryx – The International Journal of Conservation
Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!