Wanted Dead or Alive?

Arguments for conservation of sharks based on their role in the maintenance of healthy marine ecosystems have failed to halt a worldwide decline in populations of these top-order predators. This decline is driven by the economic value of sharks as a fishery and the growing market for shark fin products. An alternative approach for conservation stresses the economic value of sharks as a focus of dive tourism. In this context, sharks may have a greater value as a non-harvested resource than as a fishery. Our study quantified the economic benefits of the shark-diving industry to the community and Government of Palau. A series of questionnaires were used to survey the demographics, income and expenditure of divers visiting Palau, the markets, income and expenditures of dive tour operators and the income and interactions with shark fishers. The results of these questionnaires and recent statistics of tourism and revenues published by the Government of Palau were used to calculate the contribution of shark diving. The shark-diving industry attracts 8,600 divers each year or approximately 21% of the divers visiting Palau. The value of sharks to the Palauan economy was estimated to be US$18 million per year, accounting for approximately 8% of the gross domestic product of Palau. An individual reef shark in Palau was estimated to have an annual value of US$179,000 and a life-time value of US$1.9 million to the tourism industry. The annual income in salaries paid by the shark-diving industry to the local community was estimated to be US$1.2 million. The annual tax income to the Government of Palau generated by shark diving was estimated to be US$1.5 million or 14% of the business tax revenue. A fishery targeting the same 100 sharks that are interacting with the tourism industry in Palau would obtain a maximum of US$10,800, or 0.00006% of the life-time value of these animals as a non-consumptive resource. VALUE OF REEF SHARKS IN PALAU VIANNA ET AL. iv The tax revenues collected from shark diving were roughly 24 times higher than those from the fishing industry. The creation of the shark sanctuary could play an important role on the selection of Palau as a diving destination by tourists. WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE? The relative value... (PDF Download Available)

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