Press Release

LW Million Dollar

As Conservation Momentum Builds, So Does the Case that Sharks Are More Valuable in the Ocean than in the Soup Pot

  • May 09, 2014

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A new study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science concludes that sharks are worth far more alive and swimming. In Palau, the Pacific Island nation that declared its waters a sanctuary free of shark fishing, sharks provide a lynchpin for the tourism industry.

The analysis quantified the economic benefits of Palau's shark-diving industry and found that its worth far exceeds that of shark fishing. In fact, the estimated annual value to the tourism industry of an individual reef shark that frequents these sites was US$179,000 or US$1.9 million over its lifetime. In contrast, a single reef shark would only bring an estimated US$108.

Globally, up to 73 million sharks are killed every year primarily for their fins, which are used in the Asian delicacy shark fin soup. This unsustainable rate has driven shark populations into a global decline. In general, sharks grow slowly, mature late and produce few young over long lifetimes, leaving them exceptionally vulnerable to overexploitation and slow to recover from depletion.

The Pacific Island States have been among the first to recognize the concerning global decline in sharks and took action. In 2009, President Johnson Toribiong declared Palauan waters to be a shark sanctuary in his address to the United Nations General Assembly. Since then, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the Marshall Islands all have prohibited the possession, sale or distribution of shark fins.