A recent study on the economic potential of shark tourism in Spain has found that this type of tourism supports hundreds of jobs and generates more than €17 million to the Canary Islands economy each year.
The study was carried out by researchers at the University of La Laguna and the New Economics Foundation. It suggests that there is potential for developing ecotourism around the species of sharks and rays found throughout Spanish waters but highlights the urgent need to protect these species. The findings suggest that the wonderful marine wildlife that exists close to the UK’s coastal communities could provide great benefits for local tourism and increased protection of the marine environment. The UK has 21 types of sharks and 16 of skates and rays in its waters, including the Basking Shark which is the world’s second largest fish and already supports wildlife tourism activity in the UK.
The research found that sharks and rays offer economic benefits through diving tourism and that approximately one-third of Canary Islands diving activity is linked to these species.
“Studies such as ours reveal that sharks offer economic benefits beyond food; left alive, many species can provide a source of long-term income and employment through diving tourism,” said Aniol Esteban, Head of Environmental Economics for the New Economics Foundation. “When all tourist expenditures are taken into account, we estimate that €17.7 million (£14.5 million) of the €97.2 million that divers bring to the Canary Islands can be specifically attributed to the presence of sharks and rays.’ These are significant amounts of money.There are several other examples of shark dive tourism creating economic benefits, as well as conservation and marine habitat proetction. The Shark Reef marine reserve in Fiji is an example of this, as is the whaleshark watching industry at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. Many divers will visit specific areas just to catch a glimpse of a particular shark. From hammerheads and great whites to basking sharks and threshers, sharks have a powerful pull for dive tourism.