Global shark tourism is a growing industry, but one that is dependent on live sharks swimming in our oceans. In fact, researchers have estimated that shark tourism worldwide could double in the next 20 years. With the dollars and jobs that this growing industry supports, it’s crucial that we protect these important creatures from the dangers they face.
In a new report released last week, Oceana found that shark encounter dives generated about $221 million for Florida’s economy alone in 2016. This is over 200 times greater than the value of shark fin exports for the entire United States in 2015, clearly showing that sharks in Florida simply generate more revenue alive and in the water.
According to the Florida economic analysis, the total impact for shark encounters in Florida was over $377 million in 2016. These encounters generated more than $116 million in wages and divers spend over $221 million on expenditures, such as lodging and boat rentals. Shark encounters also supported over 3,700 jobs.
In a survey of more than 230 active dive operators, they reported that a substantial portion of their income comes from shark diving. Two types of shark dives are represented in the analysis: shark encounters and targeted shark dives. For shark encounters, customers express interest in seeing sharks, so guides take them to known shark gathering spots. In targeted shark dives, customers pay money explicitly to see a shark.
More than $126 million came from targeted shark diving, representing $67 million in wages and over 2,100 jobs. Dive operators reported that nearly 20 percent of their dive time was dedicated to target shark dives. Nearly one-third of their dive time was dedicated to shark dives in general.
To gather data, surveys were sent to 365 dive operations. Of those, 237 responded and the results were weighted to represent all 365 active dive operations. The majority of the operations were considered small, taking under 10,000 trips a year.
The Shark Fin Trade
Nearly one in four species of sharks and their relatives are threatened with extinction, with the leading cause of population declines being human activities. Sharks are caught and killed, on average, 30 percent faster than they can reproduce.
The demand for shark fins has led to the inhumane practice of shark finning – cutting the fins off sharks, often still alive, and discarding their bodies at sea to die. Although shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, shark fins are still bought and sold across the U.S.
A boon for shark conservation would be a nationwide ban on the shark fin trade. Fourteen U.S. states and territories have already banned the shark fin trade, including Hawaii, Texas, California, New York and American Samoa.
Numerous companies and countries also have shark fin trade bans in place. These include more than 19 shipping companies and 35 airlines, including Air France, Lufthansa and British Airways. Seven additional corporations which have banned shark fins include Amazon, Disney, Grubhub and Hilton Worldwide.
What You Can Do
Recently, the House of Representatives introduced the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, which would ban the shark fin trade in the U.S. This would fully ensure that the U.S. does not support the global fin trade, joining several other countries in protecting sharks. You can support the ban by adding your voice to our campaign and encouraging Congress to pass the bill, reinforcing the U.S. as a leader in shark conservation.