South Africa showcases argument for living sharks

4th Jun 2013

South Africa provides living proof of conservationists' claims that sharks are worth more alive than dead.

Shark diving and watching is more popular than ever among holidaymakers on specialist tours.

Shark Alley, a seal hunting ground off Gansbaai, is the perfect coastline observatory for lovers of this deadly marine predator.

It has the planet's largest concentration of great whites and their popularity comes at a time when scientists are aiming to reduce the number of sharks being killed for their fins.

Great whites, with only 1,000 of them now believed to be left in the world, are an endangered species.

The economic argument for keeping sharks alive is put forward in a new report in the journal Oryx - The International Journal of Conservation.

It says shark-viewing tourism generates around 314 million dollars (£207 million) a year, a figure predicted to hit 780 million dollars (£512 million) over the next two decades.

Shark fishing, in contrast, is worth 630 million dollars (£413 million) a year, but is diminishing.

A calculated 38 million sharks are caught every year to satisfy the largely Chinese love of shark fin soup.

Lead author Andres Cisneros-Montemayor, of the University of British Columbia in Canada, said: "We are hoping that people will recognise that sharks are not only valuable on the plate."

Locals can make cash from shark tourism by operating boat trips and renting scuba gear to visitors on group tours.

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