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Sharks Alive are Worth Much More than Dead

Sharks get a bad rap. Touted as the vicious kings of the sea, it has long been OK to kill these amazing creatures for sport and for food. But this all may be turning around due to some recent studies showing that sharks are better for us humans financially if they are alive over dead.

How so? Well, let’s look at two recent studies.

finned-sharks-oceanThe first study that we will be looking at was published in Oryx – The International Journal of Conservation. The research was released in July, 2013, and provided concrete evidence that killing sharks for food (something that is currently being done around the world at a high rate) is decreasing revenue possibilities. The lead author of the study, Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor, who is a Ph.D. candidate in fisheries economics at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada, along with a scientific team, looked in detail at seventy different places in 45 countries. The scientists compared income totals from the global shark fin trade versus ecotourism (specifically that which is related to shark activities). Research found that shark ecotourism is creating a $314 million dollar revenue globally. This impressive number is also said to be continuing to increase, especially in Australia and the Caribbean. In fact, scientists believe that it could as much as double in the next two decades. Comparing shark finning, the market value is over $600 million, but has been in serious decline over the last decade and a half, so much so that many businesses are having to shut their doors.

The second study that we will reference was done by the Australian Institute of Marine Science. This study looked at the community of Palau. Research found that a shark that is allowed to live its full life has the potential to bring in 2 million dollars into the community versus only $108 if killed for its shark fins.

When looking at the vast amount of sharks that are killed each year for their fins (it is estimated that it is near 40 million sharks), it is easy to see how this will positively benefit the financial well-being of communities that see that shark finning is decreasing the profitability margin. With such a big discrepancy between the financial numbers of a dead shark and a live shark, some countries are taking notice of the research. In fact, there has been legislation changes instituted in the Bahamas, Chile, and the United States (specifically Oregon, Hawaii and California) to enforce the ban on the sale, trade, distribution and possession of shark fins.

But there is one other side to the story beyond the money factor. Sharks have a vital role in the health of our oceans. As a strong predator, sharks have an important part in the circle of oceanic life. As a species that is slow to grow and one that has few young during birthing cycles, sharks need to be appreciated and protected.

If it is money that makes it happen, then so be it.