Impact Publications : MICEBTN-69
Page 30 • MICEBTN - january - March 2018 Shark diving tourism taking off, with industry’s estimated worth A$25.5m SHARK diving tourism is a grow- ing industry now estimated to be worth more than A$25.5 million annually to Australia’s regional economy. A new report produced by the Australian Institute of Marine Sci- ence (AIMS) has documented four major shark viewing industries around the Australian coast . Doctor Mark Meekan, an AIMS marine biologist and co-author of the study, said the research aimed to provide an estimate of the economic value of shark diving tourism across Australia to help inform decisions about how sharks are managed. Meekan said whale sharks, known as the gentle giants of the sea, were the most popular drawcard for tourists, who spent an estimat- ed A$11.6 million for their snorkel- ling experience. “Ecotourism focused on these animals is now a growing and prof- itable industry, with a focus that not only uses sharks as a renew- able resource, but also engages people in their conservation,” he said. “In Australia, there are four major shark tourism industries, which are snorkelling with whale sharks off Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, cage diving with white sharks off Port Lincoln in South Australia, diving with grey nurse sharks off the coast of New South Wales and Queensland and swimming with reef sharks at Osprey Reef in far North Queensland.” The study surveyed 711 tourist divers over a one year period and documented their expenditure, including accommodation, trans- port, living costs and other related activities during divers’ trips. Study collaborators Flinders Uni- versity associate professor Charlie Huveneers (lead author of the study and research leader of the Southern Shark Ecology Group), said the white shark cage-diving in- dustry off Port Lincoln, South Aus- tralia, was the second most valua- ble shark viewing industry contrib- uting A$7.8 million in direct costs to the economy in 2013–2014. “On top of costs directly asso- ciated with shark viewing, white shark and whale shark tourists spend as much again in additional expenditure in the region,” Huve- neers said. ”We found 83 per cent of the white shark cage-divers would not have visited the Port Lincoln region and spent money there if a cage-diving opportunity had not been available. “These additional revenues show that the economic value of this type of tourism do not flow solely to the industry, but are also spread across the region where it is hosted, even in countries with developed economies that are not typically considered to have a de- pendence on tourism for revenue.” Huveneers said wildlife tourism was one of the fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry, but the impact to the natural environment must be measured. “This reiterates the importance of adequate management of these industries to ensure sustainable practices, so future generations have the opportunity to view and interact with sharks in the wild in the same way that we currently can,” he said. Meekan said about half the white shark divers were domestic visitors but the highest percentage of domestic tourists were found in the grey nurse shark-diving indus- try, at 59 per cent . Most tourists in whale shark snorkelling tours were international tourists (55 per cent) and only 29 per cent were Austral- ian. Total number of divers at each of the locations during the study were: * Osprey Reef, far North Queens- land, 1, 848 tourist divers (reef sharks). * Neptune Islands, South Aus- tralia, 10,236 tourist divers (white sharks). * Ningaloo Reef, Western Aus- tralia, 22,124 tourist divers (whale sharks). * The combined total of divers to four locations in South East Queensland (Wolf Rock and Julian Rock), and NSW (Fish Rock and Magic Point) 13,978 tourist divers (grey nurse sharks).