Global economic value of shark ecotourism: implications for conservation

Andrés M. Cisneros-Montemayora1 c1, Michele Barnes-Mauthea2, Dalal Al-Abdulrazzaka1, Estrella Navarro-Holma3 and U. Rashid Sumailaa1

a1 Fisheries Centre, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6L 1G2 Canada

a2 Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

a3 Departamento de Biología Marina, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico


Amid declining shark populations because of overfishing, a burgeoning shark watching industry, already well established in some locations, generates benefits from shark protection. We compile reported economic benefits at shark watching locations and use a meta-analytical approach to estimate benefits at sites without available data. Results suggest that, globally, c. 590,000 shark watchers expend > USD 314 million per year, directly supporting 10,000 jobs. By comparison, the landed value of global shark fisheries is currently c. USD 630 million and has been in decline for most of the past decade. Based on current observed trends, numbers of shark watchers could more than double within the next 20 years, generating > USD 780 million in tourist expenditures around the world. This supports optimistic projections at new sites, including those in an increasing number of shark sanctuaries established primarily for shark conservation and enacted in recognition of the ecological and economic importance of living sharks.

(Received October 21 2012)

(Revised November 16 2012)

(Accepted November 16 2012)

(Online publication May 30 2013)


  • Economic value;
  • fisheries;
  • marine ecotourism;
  • shark conservation


c1 (Corresponding author) E-mail a.cisneros@fisheries.ubc.ca