HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Sharks have been known to attack but where they can really pack a positive punch is in the economy. Researchers with the University of British Columbia sank their teeth into a major shark study and got help from UH doctoral student Michele Barnes-Mauthe.
"We were interested in seeing what the potential benefits of utilizing sharks in different ways might be," said Michele Barnes-Mauthe, a Research Assistant with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaii at Manoa.
They studied 45 different countries and found 600,000 people spend $314 million a year going on shark tours worldwide. That economic impact doesn't include the benefits of 10,000 jobs or the money people spend travelling to the tour.
"According to our growth projection rates it looks like it could more than double in 20 years to $780 million," said Barnes-Mauthe.
That is more than the $630 million a year shark fishing reels in, which is an amount they found is sinking.
"More than 38 million sharks are estimated to be killed on average annually for the shark fin trade alone. That's a lot of sharks and many populations we've seen substantial declines," said Barnes-Mauthe.
The study primarily focused on the shark's value to the economy but doesn't necessarily focus on the value they have to the ecosystem.
The study didn't set out to advocate for shark tours. They realize there are concerns with the industry as well.
"But it does show there is this potential other way of utilizing sharks that could be more sustainable in the long term which is really the important part," said Barnes-Mauthe.
The hope is the information will lead to more protections for the predator.
To read the study click here.