At DEMA this year we were discussing the state of shark tourism with a number of tourism representatives from all over the world.
As we have long pointed out shark tourism enables local populations to sustainably manage sharks. The value of shark tourism in places like the Maldives is US$2.3 million a year-an estimated at 100 times more than the export value of that islands shark meat.
This is an industry drumbeat that's been gaining acceptance over the years and is now being adopted by forward thinking NGO's.
Unfortunately in many places this paradigm has also become a race between local fishermen who harvest sharks, for both fins and quick profits, and the newly developed and existing shark tourism operators in the region.
No where is this more aptly highlighted then recently in Malaysia and Mabul Island. This week State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun took the extraordinary step of calling for an investigation of shark fishing activities in the region. This is to applauded and kudos to the minister for this stance.
If Mabul Island and surrounding region is to retain it's sharks, local efforts in tandem with government are the key:
"Nature lovers and the global conservation community are fast becoming very influential lobbyists whose action could hurt the State's tourism industry in the long run if they decide a boycott of Sabah to protest against activities perceived to be cruel to whales and sharks," minister quote.