Economic Value of Sharks

Shark populations around the globe have been in rapid decline for the past decades as overfishing and habitat loss have severely reduced their abundance. The IUCN estimates that fully one-quarter of the world’s sharks and rays are currently threatened with extinction (Dulvy et al., 2014). This is a significant issue from an ecological standpoint, as sharks play a critical role in maintaining the health of coral reefs and open ocean ecosystems (Baum and Worm, 2009; Brierley, 2007; Ferretti et al., 2010; Terborgh, 2015). “Despite the worldwide decline of sharks and their important ecological and economic value, conservation and management measures have yet to have any discernible impact at reversing these trends for most at-risk species”, due to a lack of basic data on shark populations and a lack of political willingness and/or resources to implement and enforce conservation measures (Shiffman and Hammerschlag, 2016).

Sharks can boost island economies based on their non-consumptive value, as a natural attraction for eco-based recreation and tourism (Haas et al., 2017). Shark diving is now a prominent feature of ecotourism activities in 29 countries, involve 376 dive operations and generate an estimated US$314 million in economic expenditures per year. This is predicted to more than double, to US$780 million, in the next 20 years (Haas et al., 2017; Cisneros-Montemayor et al., 2013). It appears that shark ecotourism is more economically valuable than the fisheries which fuel the global shark fin trade: “the landed market value of shark fisheries around the globe is $630 million per year, but has been in decline over the past 10 to 15 years” (Cisneros-Montemayor et al., 2013). Significant increases in shark tourism are especially evident in the Caribbean and Australia (Cisneros- Montemayor et al., 2013).

A new study from The Bahamas (Haas et al, 2017) highlights the importance of the shark diving industry to the Bahamian economy.

This news-item was published in BioNews 8 -2017.

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