Shark diving tourism worth revealed

The shark diving tourism industry is estimated to be worth $8.1 million to the Port Lincoln region each year, a new study has revealed. 

The study between Flinders University, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, University of Western Australia and South Cross University documented the growing shark diving industry between 2013 and 2014 to reveal the worth of more than $25.5 million annually to Australia’s regional economy.

The study looked at the four major shark tourism industries of snorkelling with whale sharks off Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, cage diving with white sharks off Port Lincoln, diving with grey nurse sharks off the coast of New South Wales and Queensland, and swimming with reef sharks at Osprey Reef in far North Queensland.

During the study, the total number of visitors to the Neptune Islands from March 2013 to June 2014 was 10,236 tourist divers and a sample of those tourists were surveyed about their expenditure on accommodation, transport, living costs and other related activities during divers’ trips.

Flinders University associate professor Charlie Huveneers, lead author of the study and research leader of the Southern Shark Ecology Group, said the industry off Port Lincoln was the second most valuable shark viewing industry contributing $7.8 million in direct costs to the economy in 2013/2014.

We found 83 per cent of the white shark cage-divers would not have visited the Port Lincoln region and spent money there if a cage-diving opportunity had not been available.

”We found 83 per cent of the white shark cage-divers would not have visited the Port Lincoln region and spent money there if a cage-diving opportunity had not been available,” Mr Huveneers said. 

“These additional revenues show that the economic value of this type of tourism do not flow solely to the industry, but are also spread across the region where it is hosted.”

While the study documented the value of marine wildlife tourism, it underlined a need for adequate management of shark species to ensure a sustainable dive tourism industry.

Mr Huveneers said wildlife tourism was one of the fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry, but the impact to the natural environment needed to be measured.

“This reiterates the importance of adequate management of these industries to ensure sustainable practices, so future generations have the opportunity to view and interact with sharks in the wild in the same way that we currently can.”