Sharks swimming free in the oceans may soon become more valuable as tourist attractions than when caught, sliced up and served in soup. The landed value of world shark fisheries is now $630m a year, urging better protection for the fish, from Australia to the Caribbean, to reduce catches of an estimated 38M a year to meet demand for shark fin soup, mainly in China.
Shark-watching tourism generates about $314m a year and is projected to surge to $780m in the next 20 years. By contrast, the landed value of world shark fisheries is now $630m a year and has been in decline.
Conservationists urge better protection for the creatures and ask for the creation and upkeep of the sanctuaries. Many countries have a significant financial incentive to conserve sharks and the places where they live. The problem is the separate sources of demand. Asian lovers of shark fin soup are unlikely to abandon the dish in favor of tourism, which has so far been mainly for westerners. The International Union for Conservation of Nature said that fishermen need to see a higher value from organizing tourism. These measures could include organizing boat trips to view sharks or renting scuba gear, rather than from killing them for fins.