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Key holiday destinations see a spike in shark ecotourism

Sharks are quickly becoming one of the greatest assets for tropical holiday destinations. Research from various universities and organizations have highlighted the potential that shark ecotourism holds with the industry having the potential of generating $780 million in revenue each year over the next 20 years. Destinations like the Maldives and Isla Mujeres are already reaping the benefits of shark eco tourism.

Key holiday destinations see a spike in shark ecotourism

Research is opening up the eyes of the global tourism industry to the to the fact that sharks are more valuable alive than dead. In May 2013 research coming out of the University of British Columbia published a paper weighing the economic benefits of the shark fin trade against that of shark tourism.

The results of that study showed that while shark fisheries earned $630 million annually- a sum which has been declining over the past ten years, the relatively new shark eco tourism industry currently earns $314 million annually- a sum that is expected to balloon to a remarkable $780 million annually over the next 20 years.

Angelo Villagomez manager of the Pew Charitable Trusts' global shark conservation campaign noted:

"Sharks are fished because they have value in fisheries, but a lot of tropical island locations, especially holiday destinations, have found that they can get a lot more out of their resources with dive tourism".

Two such tropical holiday destinations that are already reaping the benefits of shark tourism are the Maldives and Isla Mujeres near Cancun Mexico.

Research from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) recently published in the peer reviewed journal PeerJ highlighted the extent to which the Maldives' tourism industry was dependent on shark ecotourism from the island nation's South Ari atoll.

The findings of that study showed that whale shark ecotourism accounted for nearly 50 per cent of tourism in the Maldives making $9.4 million last year with 77,000 travellers were enticed to book Maldives holidays in 2013 to see the whale sharks.

In Isla Mujeres, Ceviche Tours one tour company dedicated to sustainable shark tourism has started its very own annual Whale Shark Festival seven years ago. The event, held every July, offers visitors the opportunity to swim with the sharks but also seeks to educate attendees of the importance of shark conservation.

"Instead of selling a fish, if you bring people to snorkel with that fish, you can make a sustainable living off of the life of the animal."

Noted John Vater head of Ceviche Tours.

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