chapter  8
19 Pages

The role of the tourism industry CHRISTINE A . WARD - PAIGE

A thriving and sustainable marine tourism industry balances human use with the requirements of the natural environment (Wilson and Tisdell, 2003). However, there are many examples where human use has been prioritized at the expense of the surrounding environment, resulting in degraded coastal habitats (Lotze et al., 2006) and depleted wildlife populations (Jackson et al., 2001; Lotze and Worm, 2008). The marine tourism industry consists of a variety of stakeholders that depend on abundant and diverse natural resources (Orams, 1999). Therefore, there is momentum to reduce anthropogenic impacts, mitigate past degradations, recover populations and monitor environmental conditions to ensure long-term sustainable use. This trend towards improved monitoring, conservation and management is particularly evident in the industry of shark and ray tourism (Simpfendorfer et al., 2011; Ward-Paige et al., 2012), which is demonstrated by a growing number of research projects that are facilitated by the tourism industry (Couturier et al., 2011; Ward-Paige and Lotze, 2011; Whitney et al., 2012; see Box 8.1 for a case study on the Great Fiji Shark Count), and associated operational and policy changes advocated for by the tourism industry (Brunnschweiler, 2010; Pew Environment Group, 2011). This chapter outlines the role of the tourism industry in shark conservation, governance and management. Although many aspects of the tourism industry may have a role to play in shark conservation (e.g. restaurants providing local, sustainably caught fish, communities modifying or removing shark exclusion devices to not endanger wildlife, or hotel developments that protect and maintain shark nursery areas), here I focus on the sector of the marine tourism industry that interacts directly with sharks and rays in the wild. This includes recreational fishers (both catch-and-keep and catch-and-release), divers, snorkelers and vessel-based operations. The role of this sector in shark conservation and management includes: (1) increasing the value of individual sharks and rays beyond the one-off value that may be acquired by commercial fishing; (2) facilitating research by directing research questions, supporting research

programmes and supplying data to research programmes that solicit the help of resource users; and (3) using the scientific literature to develop best practices for shark and ray encounters, and to advocate for management strategies that promote long-term sustainability. Finally, I explore possible avenues for future collaborations between researchers and the tourism industry, and highlight the need for effective alliances and communication to ensure the necessary data are collected to improve our understanding of sharks and rays, and their conservation and management needs.