It might not be your first choice for a vacation activity, but there are thousands of people the world over who weren't as scared by the movie "Jaws" as they were intrigued. I'm definitely one of them. Ever since I was a kid, I've had a huge curiosity, respect for, and desire to see a shark in its native habitat. These are not mutually exclusive feelings.
Keep in mind that not all sharks are the kind the are interested in eating — or even tasting — human beings. In fact, most sharks are after other prey that's smaller and easier. But all kinds of sharks are hunted for their somewhat valuable fins, which are used to make shark fin soup, which is considered a delicacy in Japan. This hunting has decimated shark populations.
While there are ongoing pushes to protect sharks based on their importance to the ocean ecosystem, a new study shows that there may be an economic benefit to protecting sharks from being made into soup. That's where people like me come in.
The Australian Institute for Marine Science (AIMS) analyzed the financial benefit sharks bring, and found that since divers — that is, water-loving tourists — often cite a shark sighting as reason to visit a particular area over another, sharks have an monetary value to the waters they call home. According to Earthtimes.org
, "AIMS estimated that each reef shark generates around $179,000 per year in tourism revenue. This equates to a whopping $1.9 million during its lifetime. In comparison, a single shark's fin — and therefore shark — fetches only around $108 when sold for shark fin soup."