Sharks Worth More in the Ocean Than On a Menu

We shouldn’t have to put a dollar sign on sharks to make them worth protecting, but a new global analysis shows that if we did, they’re worth far more alive in the water than they ever could be dead in a soup bowl.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia, the University of Hawaii and the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur in Mexico put aside the value of saving sharks for the sake of conservation and marine ecosystem health to focus on their value as an economic resource.

They examined shark fisheries and shark ecotourism data from 70 sites in 45 countries, compared the economic value of sharks, both alive and dead, and found that shark ecotourism not only generates $314 million annually, but is expected to more than double in the next 20 years, which would generate an estimated $780 million annually, which they believe to be a conservative estimate.

The growing industry already draws an estimated 590,000 tourists to more than 80 locations and supports more than 10,000 jobs.

Conversely, they found that global shark fisheries generate $630 million annually and have been declining steadily over the last decade, due mainly to overfishing. The study, published in Oryx – The International Journal of Conservation, offers the first global estimate of the value of sharks when it comes to ecotourism.

“Sharks are slow to mature and produce few offspring,” said Rashid Sumaila, senior author and director of UBC’s Fisheries Centre. “The protection of live sharks, especially through dedicated protected areas, can benefit a much wider economic spectrum while helping the species recover.”

Researchers did, however, raise concerns about how sharks, other marine creatures and habitats may be affected by tourist operations, but noted that well-managed sites have generally led to improved ecosystem health and believe the industry can help raise awareness and support for conservation efforts.

An estimated 38 million sharks are currently being killed every year, leaving conservationists worried about their ability to withstand and recover from this rate of exploitation. However, there have been a number of victories in their favor with increased protections in some areas and bans on shark fins popping up around the world.

In recent years, nine countries including Palau, the Maldives, Honduras, Tokelau, the Bahamas, the Marshall Islands, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia and New Caledonia have created sanctuaries by banning commercial shark fishing, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“It’s clear that sharks contribute to a healthy marine environment, which is paramount to the long-term social, cultural, and financial well-being of millions of people around the world,” said Jill Hepp, director of global shark conservation at Pew. “Many countries have a significant financial incentive to conserve sharks and the places where they live.”

Semporna, Malaysia is one of those places and was ahead of the curve on this issue, proposing a shark sanctuary in 2009, which could provide a valuable model for combining conservation efforts and economic development.


Photo credit: Thinkstock


Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright4 years ago

Well duh...............................

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Nickihermes Celine
Past Member 4 years ago

signed,thank you for sharing 30/6

N R C4 years ago


Sheila Dillon
GGmaSheila D4 years ago

To Jose P. - the majority of the buyers in Japan do know what is being done to the sharks just so they can have their fins for soup. They are willing to pay top dollar for getting the fins and throwing the rest of the shark back into the water to bleed to death. They do not consider ti being ripped off but a luxury to have at any cost. Just thought you'd like to know.

Nina G. - It's not just our country, sad to say.

Neil A. - I agree it's cruel and needs to be stopped. However, it has to be stopped at the receiving end. As in anything like this, if there's no market, there's no shark finning.

carol k.
carol k4 years ago

true, but sadly not to the ignorant greedy gluttons of Asians!

Neil A.
Neil A4 years ago

Shark fining is really very VERY cruel, it should not continue & being only for profit shows the nasty greed of the finners.

Nina Giordano
Nina Giordano4 years ago

What is wrong with our country? Seems as if far too many humans are not happy unless they kill, mame or extinguish life and all things good.

Isabel Araujo
Isabel Araujo4 years ago

Of course they are!

Anne Moran
Anne Moran4 years ago