Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Earth Science News .

The world's biggest fish adds value to paradise
by Staff Writers
Male, Maldives (SPX) Aug 13, 2014

Researchers from the MWSRP think its possible whale sharks visit the shallow waters of S.A.MPA to warm up after diving deep for food. Image courtesy James Hancock.

They are the largest fish in the world but the impact of this majestic and charismatic animal on the economy of the island nation of the Maldives was largely unknown. A new study by scientists of the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) reveals that a small group of whale sharks in a single Maldivian Atoll accounts for nearly 3% of the global shark ecotourism and nearly half that of the Maldives'.

"The Republic of Maldives hosts one of few known year round aggregation sites for whale sharks", said James Hancock co-author and a director of MWSRP. "We have seen that they have become a major tourism draw to South Ari atoll, but we didn't expect these big numbers".

The South Ari atoll Marine Protected Area (S.A.MPA) alone attracted 77,000 tourists in 2013. This equates to $9.4million USD in direct income to operators who offer the chance to glimpse this famous 'bucket list' animal.

This is the first value that has been attributed to what is a burgeoning industry in the Maldives. It is also the first time that a valuation for a wildlife viewing experience has been calculated exclusively from observational studies.

"Instead of surveying tourists and extrapolating results we actually went out and counted how many boats and people were in the water looking for sharks" said Neal Collins, a joint researcher from IUCN and MWSRP and one of the authors of the study. "By doing so we were able to estimate not only how many people were interacting with the sharks, but also where and how they do it" added co-author Fernando Cagua.

"When we include the whale sharks from South Ari Atoll, we were able to adjust previous estimates of annual 'shark related' tourism expenditure in the Maldives from $12 million USD to nearly $20 million" said Fernando.

"There are still many mysteries about these whale sharks - we don't know why they come here or for how long they stay - but bringing the money issue to the table is an important step towards ensuring their conservation."

Despite the South Ari Atoll Marine Protected Area (S.A.MPA) being the most popular whale shark viewing region in the Maldives, this area is as yet unregulated.

This study, published today in the peer-reviewed journal PeerJ, highlights how the implementation of a management plan which safeguards this aggregation site would reduce the possible economic impact that would result from the sharks leaving the area due to stresses from the attention they receive.

The S.A.MPA was first designated in 2009. At 42 square kilometers it is the largest protected area in the Maldives. An accepted management plan was not reached at the original time of designation.

Therefore, this study has proven timely, as consultations with local communities and tourism industry representatives have again begun, with a more determined effort to create a world class whale shark tourism destination.

"In a sense the whale sharks here are perfect for wildlife tourism. They are the largest shark in the world and the slow moving, shallow swimming behaviour they exhibit in S.A.MPA waters makes them accessible not just to scuba divers but also to snorkel excursions. This opens up an incredible wildlife experience to just about everyone, which of course brings with it a degree of risk in terms of the welfare of both the sharks and the tourists" said Richard Rees, director of MWSRP.

"The encouraging thing is that everyone in the industry we talk to agrees these risks need to be managed and the local communities are receptive to participating in the management of the area." he added.

Cagua et al. (2014), Whale shark economics: a valuation of wildlife tourism in South Ari Atoll, Maldives. PeerJ 2:e515; DOI 10.7717/PeerJ.515


Related Links
Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP)
Darwin Today At

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Antarctic insect genome is smallest to date
Columbus OH (SPX) Aug 13, 2014
Scientists who sequenced the genome of the Antarctic midge suspect the genome's small size - the smallest in insects described to date - can probably be explained by the midge's adaptation to its extreme living environment. The midge is a small, wingless fly that spends most of its two-year larval stage frozen in the Antarctic ice. Upon adulthood, the insects spend seven to 10 days mating ... read more

Long-neglected Gaza heritage wilts in war

Fresh suicides fuel military service concerns in S. Korea

Britain aborts second Iraq aid drop over safety fears

Chinese media keep to Beijing's script for quake reports

Learning from origami to design new materials

BAE Systems touts its Artisan radar system

Association of satellite operators joins program for space safety

USN Moderates CubeSat RF Communications Standards Meeting

Man finds two-headed dolphin washed ashore in Turkey

Ancient shellfish remains rewrite 10,000-year history of El Nino cycles

Northern Pacific's tropical anoxic zone might shrink from climate change

Water's reaction with metal oxides opens doors for researchers

University of Minnesota researcher finds cooling effect in warming Arctic lakes

Chile's mega-quake triggered 'icequakes' in Antarctica

Megascale icebergs run aground

Sulfur signals in Antarctic snow reveal clues to climate, past and future

Drought hits Central America's crops, cattle

Dhaka's residents fight back over vanishing green spaces

China holds six from OSI unit in food scandal: company

Ohio lawmakers hope fertilizer licensing helps curb algae growth

Swiss chase adrift construction platform down rain-swollen Rhine

2010 Chilean earthquake causes icequakes in Antarctica

Earthquake shakes Ecuador capital

Floods kill 45 in eastern India: official

Three Pygmies 'mutilated and killed by Katanga militia'

UN tells DRCongo rebels to disarm or face military action

1,500 security forces deployed in Sierra Leone for Ebola quarantine

Kerry offers financial support to green African initiatives

Flores bones evidence of Down syndrome, not new species

6,500-year-old human skeleton found in museum storage

Engineering a protein to prevent brain damage from toxic agents

OkCupid admits toying with users to find love formula

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.