Shark diving is popular throughout Fiji, not just in PacificHarbor. In Viti Levu, the country's largest island, profits totaledapproximately $10.2 million; and to the northwest, the islandgroups of Mamanuca and Yasawa generated $3.2 million. "Our survey found that sharks are one of the most significantcreatures tourists wish to see when scuba diving," said Dr. MarkMeekan of the Australian Institute of Marine Science and co-authorof the study. "These animals are also an indicator of healthy coralreef ecosystems." Diving with sharks is a growing business worldwide, withestablished operations found in at least 83 locations in 29countries. |
Although places such as South Africa, the United States,and Australia have typically dominated this industry, shark divingis becoming an economic driver across the Indo-Pacific. In Palau, arecent study found that $18 million a year (or 8 percent of itsGDP) is generated by this activity. In French Polynesia, divingwith lemon sharks off Moorea Island brings in about $5.4 millionannually. "This study quantifies what we already knew but could only guess upuntil now," said Michael Wong, chief executive officer of the FijiHotel and Tourism Association.
"Living sharks add real value to oureconomy, so it makes sense to do everything we can to protectFiji's sharks. A Fiji shark sanctuary is the strongest meanspossible." "Protecting sharks is a win-win opportunity," said Rick MacPherson,director of Conservation Programs for the Coral Reef Alliance."Living sharks provide a direct and renewable economic benefitfor the people of Fiji. They also contribute to a healthy marineenvironment, which is paramount to Fiji's long-term social,cultural, and financial well-being." At least 75 shark and ray species inhabit the waters of the Fijiislands. According to the International Union for Conservation ofNature Red List of threatened species, 66 percent of these speciesare globally threatened or near threatened.
Although Fiji hasimplemented strong measures to safeguard the marine environment,there are no specific protections for sharks. Up to 73 million of these animals are killed every year primarilyfor their fins, which are used to make shark fin soup, a populardish in Asia. Over the last two years, several countries includingPalau, the Maldives, Honduras, the Bahamas, and the MarshallIslands have created sanctuaries and prohibited commercial sharkfishing to protect these species in their waters.
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