Monday, February 16, 2009

The Power of Shark Tourism

What began as a few online posts exposing shark fishing in Pulau Mabul by concerned divers has grown into a bit of a movement.

A movement that Tourism Minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun is taking seriously.

"Nature lovers and the global conservation community are fast becoming an influential lobbying group who could hurt the state tourism industry if they decide to boycott Sabah in protest against such activities."

Malaysia needs tourism, but tourism alone does not provide enough money to stop shark finning in the region. So, what is the solution?


As we have long pointed out where local fishermen see the financial incentive to keep sharks alive they do. Maylasia has discovered the power of shark tourism to increase tourism dollars to the region and the eco centric divers shark tourism attracts. Our industry needs to provide Tourism Minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun with the tools he will need to effect change in his region for continued and better tourism with sharks.

Some suggestions:

Park Fees and Outreach - Worldwide pilot programs providing local populations with money not to kill sharks are showing promise. Western tourists will gladly pay more money into regional parks if they know these monies will help preserve the environment.

Education and Redevelopment - Tourism in undeveloped regions is always a first step. Providing incentives to local resorts with tax beaks to help develop "off site" dive sites in regions where shark finning is happening is a viable solution. Add to that a partnership with an NGO or better yet direct engagement by local resorts in the region to educate local fishermen to the lasting value of sharks.

The growing calls from the dive community for a ban on dive tourism in the region is a "one trick pony" and serves only to provide a laser focus to the shark finning issue. Viable tourism solutions need to be forthcoming to move this regional issue into the next phase, direct and lasting action.

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