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Sharks have proved themselves amazingly resilient, having survived 5 major extinctions. Yet in the last 50 years damaging human activities have driven many species to the brink. Today sharks are one of the most threatened groups of animals on the planet!
Yet, ecotourism may provide a glimmer of hope. It's seen by many as a socio-economic solution to over-exploitation. With the power to protect sharks and provide livelihoods.
It's not surprising that ecotourism generates huge revenue for some regions. Especially as concern for our environment and awareness about our impact on the planet continues to grow. According to the Center for Responsible Travel, the concept of ecotourism emerged in the late 1970s. By the early 1990s it was the fastest growing sector of the tourism industry.
It’s been suggested that sharks can be worth a lot more alive than dead. A single live reef shark could generate $73 a day, equating to more than $200,000 over its life time. This same shark might fetch less than $20 on a fish market. So there seems to be a good economic argument for maintaining healthy populations. But there’s another reason. For an individual an individual, seeing sharks in the wild is an invaluable experience. One we hope future generations will be able to share.
In 2010, the Maldives recognised the importance of sharks to the tourism industry. Banning shark fishing in favour of shark ecotourism.
Other sports such as diving and recreational angling can have a positive impact on sharks. For example, once abundant around the UK, the Common Skate is now Critically Endangered. But, in the Sound of Mull a tag and release angling venture is helping conserve them. Here they have a population of around 500, which brings in an estimated £1m to the local economy each year. A much better return than the £3 per kilo these animals fetch on the fish market.
RESPONSIBLE SHARK ECOTOURISM
Shark ecotourism takes many forms. The most common are cage diving, boat trips and shark watching.
We recommend researching a tour operator before you book. What are their ethical practices? Operators who promote conservation are more likely to provide a positive experience. For both you and the animals.
There are plenty of companies to choose from so it’s worth taking your time. Find the right one for you. There are many websites that offer ethical and responsible travel advice. As well as online forums for reviewing and rating destinations.
Be aware of developments operating under the guise of ecotourism. Destroying essential habitats to build marinas or hotels is incredibly destructive.
By following respectful codes of practice, shark ecotourism is a powerful and empowering tool for conservation. And provides a wonderful way to connect with nature.
Want to see Basking Sharks?
Help us ensure safe and positive interactions between humans and Basking Sharks.
► Download our Basking Shark Code of Conduct.
► Visit our Basking Shark Project for more information about Basking Sharks.
Looking for a UK tour operator?
We recommend a WiSe accredited company.
►Visit the Wildlife Safe (WiSe) website for more information.
Are you a diver, or want to be?
PADI offer a variety of responsible diving courses.
► Visit the PADI website for more information.
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