By Brenna Schneider
As a small, isolated island, the country of Palau has a limited number of income options. Today the tourism industry is a vital source of income for this nation state, as it makes up about 56% of Palau’s gross domestic product (GDP) (Vianna et al, 2012). There are more than 40,000 divers who visit Palau each year who spend money on lodging, food, equipment, boats, souvenirs and guides, among other things. This money stimulates the economy by creating jobs, and consequently accounts for more than 39% of the nation’s GDP. Of the many divers who choose to visit Palau every year, many specifically visit to shark dive.
Divers choose to shark dive in Palau because the white tip and grey reef sharks who reside in Palauan waters are predictable- they are in relatively high numbers, and they spend 99% of their lives in one place, in their “home”(Vianna et al, 2012). The predictability of sharks in Palau makes divers confident that they will have a worthwhile experience, even before they get on the plane. Sharks are a massive component of the tourism industry in Palau, which is fortunate because they are a renewable resource- it is expected that they will stay in Palau attracting divers as long as they are safe and their environment is taken care of.
In 2010 the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences and The University of Western Australia published a research paper that stated the economic importance of sharks to the economy of Palau (Vianna et al, 2012). The study uses statistics based on surveys and the collection and compilation of data to prove that it is much more economically beneficial to keep the sharks alive then to allow them to be captured and killed. The study concludes that each reef shark can contribute almost two million dollars to the economy of Palau within their sixteen year expected lifespan (Sinha, 2011). On the other hand, if a fisherman kills a shark he might be able to get a one-time payment of a couple of hundreds of dollars for the shark’s fins (Sinha, 2011). More....