Divers want sharks. Guides need them…

A video from StudioUp and SharkAmigos about Angel Quimis, a Dive Master at Wreck Bay Dive Center, on San Cristobal island in the Galapagos. Angel used to be a fishermen, but decided to change professions and become a diver. He makes a really important point about the real economic value of sharks and other critters people go to see in the Galapagos: sea lions, penguins,  tortoises, sea birds, etc. These animals are worth far mor alive and in their natural habitat than dead on a dinner plate or in a bowl of soup.

We don’t need to avoid the hard-boiled economic analysis here: the financially prudent choice is to conserve the tourist magnets that are the basis for the modern economy in the Galapagos and so many other coastal towns.

As we blogged about (here) a recent paper by Gallagher and Hammerschlag (2011) found that every day that a shark stays alive and available for divers to catch a glimpse of, it raises an average $73 in tourism revenue.  That ads up to ~ $25,000 a year and well over a million greenbacks over a life time.

As coastal communities move from an economy based on resource extraction to one based on tourism and related services, to be sustainable, they need to learn and absorb this lesson. Mixed-use management of the ocean is possible in theory but in practice is very difficult to achieve in such circumstances. There is such a strong inherent economic conflict between the old and the new way of life.  In a place like the Galapagos, tourism has brought in countless jobs, services like improved health care and far greater wealth for the community. Few people would want to go back to an extraction-based economy, but that will be forced on the whole community if the things tourist come to see all end up in asian soup bowls.


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