Nereus Network Director Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor (UBC) is lead author on a new study published in the journal Advances in Marine Biology that focuses on shark ecotourism in Mexico. In the paper, the authors discuss how the increase in global ecotourism and shark watching is emerging as an incentive to conserve and maintain healthy shark populations and marine ecosystems. In Mexico, shark tourism locations are already generating greater than half of national shark fisheries’ annual revenues, showing that there’s significant potential for economic benefits both locally and nationally. The authors point out some negative aspects of ecotourism, such as “conditioning to artificial feeding, bait-transmitted diseases, less natural predation, physiological stress, and an increase in human and shark interaction incidents.” However, these negative impacts have thus far not been adequately studied on current shark populations used in ecotourism. The authors argue that this research will be needed to better inform science-based and adaptive management and policies going forward. Therefore, they focus on key shark watching sites in Mexico and their contribution to local and national economic activity. They stress that adequate management strategies are important in deterring some of the negative impacts associated with shark watching, as well as the current state of protection and knowledge about the shark species (such as whale sharks and Great whites) that are economically important for Mexico’s ecotourism. You can read the full abstract below, as well as access the original article.
Shark ecotourism has the potential to contribute significantly to local and national economies and conservation, though this depends on a concerted effort to implement evidence-based management. Sharks are key attractions at some of the most important marine ecotourism sites throughout Mexico, focusing particularly on whale sharks, white sharks, hammerhead sharks, and several other reef-associated and pelagic species. This generates important employment opportunities and millions of USD in revenue, but truly implementing ecotourism requires that education and conservation be a part of activities and that these benefit local communities, so that the industry can be socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. In Mexico, this includes addressing potential negative impacts from vessel overcrowding, provisioning, inequitable distribution of ecotourism and conservation benefits and costs, and a broader lack of governance capacity to ensure that coastal development is environmentally sustainable and socially equitable. In the context of a Blue Economy centered on sustainability and local benefits, ecotourism provides a key incentive and opportunity to improve ocean management.
Cisneros-Montemayor, A. M., Becerril-García, E. E., Berdeja-Zavala, O., & Ayala-Bocos, A. (2020). Shark ecotourism in Mexico: Scientific research, conservation, and contribution to a Blue Economy. Advances in Marine Biology, 85, 3. link.