Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shark Diving in Fiji - here are the Numbers!

Shark diving - not only fun but extremely valuable, too!

Well it was about time!
After keeping it a closely guarded secret, Pew have decided to finally publish the study they commissioned last year and I must say that I am impressed and also mighty proud!

Executive Summary

We quantified the economic revenues generated by shark diving and the distribution of these revenues to the principal local stakeholders involved with the industry, including businesses, government and local community.

Shark-diving contributed US $42.2 million to the economy of Fiji, a sum composed of revenues generated by the industry combined with the taxes paid by shark-divers to the government.

This estimate was based on self-administered questionnaires designed to collect information on the costs and benefit of the shark-diving industry. We conducted the study in August/September 2011 and distributed questionnaires on the islands of Viti Levu (including the islands of Nananu-i-Ra and Beqa), Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Kadavu, the Yasawa and Mamanuca groups. Questionnaires were answered by 289 divers, 18 dive operators, six resort managers (surveyed at Pacific Harbour and Coral Coast only), 14 dive guides and nine local subsistence fishers from villages that regularly received payment from shark-diving operators for the use of the reef of which they are the traditional owners.

We took a conservative approach to all calculations in order to reduce the risk of over-estimating the value of shark-diving to the Fijian economy We calculated the economic revenue of shark-diving to Fiji based on three key pieces of information:
  • (1) Total number of divers visiting the country and the proportion of tourists engaged in dive activities from the Fiji International Visitor Survey 2009
  • (2) All expenditures of the divers visiting Fiji primarily to engage in shark-diving activities(“dedicated shark-divers”) as revealed by our surveys;
  • (3) The expenditures of divers who visited Fiji for reasons other than diving with sharks, but chose to engage in shark-diving while in the country (“casual shark-divers”) as revealed by our surveys.Expenditures of these divers were allocated as the proportion of their trip spent shark diving, rather than for their entire visit.
In 2010 we estimated that approximately 49,000 divers were engaged in shark-diving activities in Fiji accounting for 78% of the 63,000 divers visiting the country. Dedicated and casual shark-divers accounted for 24% and 54% of all divers we interviewed respectively.

The shark-diving industry contributed US $17.5 million in taxes to the government, a sum composed of corporate taxes from shark-diving (US $11.6 million) and the direct taxes from shark-divers (US $5.9 million).

A minimum of US $4 million was generated annually by shark-diving for local communities. This revenue consisted of salaries paid by the industry to employees (US $3.9 million annually) and community levies paid by dive operators to traditional owners in villages for access to reefs (US $124,200 annually). Employees of the dive industry were predominantly Fijian (13 of 14 dive guides who responded to surveys).

Community levies from shark-diving have played a significant role in promoting the conservation of reefs through systems of traditional ownership.

Viti Levu hosted the largest number of dedicated and casual shark-divers (17,000) with Pacific Harbour accounting for around 50% of the shark-divers, or approximately 8,600 tourists. The Mamanuca/Yasawa group also hosted a large number of shark-divers (11,000) while Vanua Levu/Taveuni hosted approximately 3,600. Kadavu had only 17% of divers identified as casual shark divers and no dedicated shark-divers interviewed during our survey.

Shark-diving generated approximately US $10.2 million on Viti Levu (63% of business revenues from diving) and US $3.2 million (40% of the business revenues) in the Mamanuca/Yasawa groups.

Yes I'm obviously biased.
But having witnessed the enormous effort and acribic number crunching of Gabe Vianna and Mark Meekan when they came to Fiji to collate the data I say, this is as good as it gets - and the real figures are probably even higher!
As a reminder, here is our own back-of-the envelope calculation for the contribution by BAD, once again probably too conservative.

Plus, this only looks at Shark diving.
Like I said e.g. here, I personally believe that the value of Sharks extends far wider, by preserving the health of Fiji's marine habitats and thus having a crucial importance for not only tourism in general but also local fisheries and the well being of our coastal communities.

You can find the entire paper here.
Required reading!

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