A study from the nation of Palau, an island nation in the Pacific, reports that sharks — hunted worldwide to be served as a delicacy — are more valuable and worth more to the local economies alive rather than dead. Researchers in Australia even concluded that one reef shark could be worth around two million dollars in revenue for its local tourism industry over the course of its lifetime.
“Our study shows that these animals can contribute far more as a tourism resource than as a catch target,” says Mark Meekan, the lead author of the study from the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
The study showed that a single reef shark’s annual value to a local scuba diving site in Palau is $179,000, or about $1.9 million dollars over that shark’s lifetime. Shark diving in Palau accounts for eight percent of their GDP, and generates over a million dollars in salary annually.
Sharks, often hunted for their meat and especially for shark-fin soup, have been especially vulnerable to large scale fishing because of their slow maturation and low number of offspring.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), one third of open-water sharks are endangered and facing extinction.
Studies have also shown that when shark populations decline, the impact is felt throughout the food chain in harmful and unpredictable ways.
Palau, Honduras, and the Maldives were the first to declare their waters as shark sanctuaries, while Hawaii, Guam, Northern Marianas, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands have all banned the sale, distribution, or possession of shark fins.
Photo Credit: gallery.usgs.gov/images/10_01_2010/w06Ev32uto_10_01_2010/large/shark_Palmyra_carcharhinus_melanopterus_Lafferty.jpg