A study of 70 fisheries and ecotourism sites in 45 countries found that sharks make more money as tourist attractions than as food.
Sharks that are free to swim around in their natural habitats are a valuable part of tourism around the world, a new study finds, which suggests sharks are worth more in the world's oceans than they are on restaurant menus.
The new research provides evidence of the value of conservation against the rampant killing of sharks for food, said study lead author Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor, a Ph.D. candidate in the fisheries economics research unit at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada.
A team of scientists pored through data from 70 sites in 45 countries to compare how much money is generated each year by fisheries that fuel the global shark fin trade, and how much is generated by ecotourism, which encompasses all forms of shark-watching activities.
Currently, shark ecotourism brings in $314 million annually worldwide, and this sector is expected to continue growing. Surges in shark tourism are particularly evident in the Caribbean and Australia, the researchers said.
"That figure is projected to double to over $700 million per year within the next 20 years," Cisneros-Montemayor told LiveScience.