60-Second Science

Fish Finning Fails Financially

An economic analysis of the value of sharks for ecotourism alone finds that each individual is worth far more alive than dead for its fins. Steve Mirsky reports

Tens of millions of sharks are killed for their fins each year. It's not just a tragic abuse of the animals. It's bad business.

"They're basically swimming dollar signs, whether you're trying to kill them for their meat or their fins or you're interested in looking at them for ecotourism." That's Austin Gallagher, a doctoral student at the University of Miami. I spoke with him on February 26th.

"We did some calculations and the results were remarkable. We determined that the average shark was worth about $200,000 over the course of its life. And when you compare it to finning that animal--a one-time extractive use--seeing it for diving is worth about 40 percent more."

Gallagher and his doctoral advisor Neil Hammerschlag published the study last year in Current Issues in Tourism. ["Global shark currency: the distribution, frequency, and economic value of shark ecotourism"]

"Since this paper came out, I got an e-mail from somebody in Bali just a weeks ago saying, `We're using your paper to stop illegal harvest of thresher sharks in Bali at a local dive community.'"

--Steve Mirsky

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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