Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 665–680 | Cite as

The economic value of shark-diving tourism in Australia

  • Charlie HuveneersEmail author
  • Mark G. Meekan
  • Kirin Apps
  • Luciana C. Ferreira
  • David Pannell
  • Gabriel M. S. Vianna
Research Paper


Shark-diving is part of a rapidly growing industry focused on marine wildlife tourism. Our study aimed to provide an estimate of the economic value of shark-diving tourism across Australia by comprehensively surveying the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus), and reef shark (mostly Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos and Triaenodon obesus) diving industries using a standardised approach. A socio-economic survey targeted tourist divers between March 2013 and June 2014 and collected information on expenditures related to diving, accommodation, transport, living costs, and other related activities during divers’ trips. A total of 711 tourist surveys were completed across the four industries, with the total annual direct expenditure by shark divers in Australia estimated conservatively at $25.5 M. Additional expenditure provided by the white-shark and whale-shark-diving industries totalled $8.1 and $12.5 M for the Port Lincoln and Ningaloo Reef regions respectively. International tourists diving with white sharks also expended another $0.9 M in airfares and other activities while in Australia. These additional revenues show that the economic value of this type of tourism do not flow solely to the industry, but are also spread across the region where it is hosted. This highlights the need to ensure a sustainable dive-tourism industry through adequate management of both shark-diver interactions and biological management of the species on which it is based. Our study also provides standardised estimates which allow for future comparison of the scale of other wildlife tourism industries (not limited to sharks) within or among countries.


Economic evaluation Grey nurse sharks Reef sharks Whale sharks White sharks Wildlife tourism 



All interviews were conducted in accordance with the requirements of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research and the policies and procedures of The University of Western Australia. Social and behavioural research ethics for this project was approved by the University of Western Australia Social and Behavioural Ethics Committee (Approval No. RA/4/1/4180). We thank all the operators for the information provided and for allowing us to ask their visitors to complete our surveys. We thank Dani Rob from the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife–Exmouth District for assisting with surveys and providing information on the tourism industry for the Ningaloo Reef region. We thank John and Linda Rumney. Johanna Zimmerhackel and Vanessa Bettcher for assistance with data processing. David Pannell acknowledges the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions for funding support.


  1. Apps K et al (2014) Scuba diving with the grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus): an application of the theory of planned behaviour to identify divers beliefs. Aquat Conserv Marine Freshw Ecosyst 25(2):201–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Apps K et al (2015) Scuba divers and the Greynurse shark: beliefs, knowledge, and behavior. Hum Dimens Wildl 20(5):425–439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Apps K et al (2016) In the water with white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias): participants’ beliefs toward Cage-diving in Australia. Anthrozoös 29(2):231–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Apps K et al (2017) Is there a place for education and interpretation in shark-based tourism? Tour Recreat Res. doi: 10.1080/02508281.2017.1293208 Google Scholar
  5. Ballantyne R et al (2011) Visitors’ learning for environmental sustainability: testing short-and long-term impacts of wildlife tourism experiences using structural equation modelling. Tour Manag 32(6):1243–1252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barker SM et al (2011a) Recreational SCUBA diver interactions with the critically endangered Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus). Pac Conserv Biol 16(4):261–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barker SM et al (2011b) A video and photographic study of aggregation, swimming and respiratory behaviour changes in the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus) in response to the presence of SCUBA divers. Mar Freshw Behav Physiol 44(2):75–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barnett A et al (2012) Residency and spatial use by reef sharks of an isolated seamount and its implications for conservation. PLoS ONE 7(5):e36574CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  9. Beaver D, Keily T (2015) The scuba dive industry in Australia: towards estiamtes of economic size and impact, Centre for Conservation GeographyGoogle Scholar
  10. Bennett M et al (2003) The sustainability of dive tourism in Phuket, Thailand. Communities in SE Asia: Challenges and responses. In: Landsdown H, Dearden P, Neilson W (eds) Victoria, BC, University of Victoria, Center for Asia Pacific Initiatives, pp 97–106Google Scholar
  11. Bradford RW, Robbins RL (2013) Rapid assessment technique to assist management of the white shark (Carcharodon Carcharias) cage dive industry, South Australia. Open Fish Sci J 6:13–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bruce BD, Bradford RW (2013) The effects of shark cage-diving operations on the behaviour and movements of white sharks, Carcharodon Carcharias, at the Neptune Islands, South Australia. Mar Biol 160:889–907CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Brunnschweiler JM, Ward-Paige CA (2014) Shark fishing and tourism. Oryx 48(04):486–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Burgin S, Hardiman N (2015) Effects of non-consumptive wildlife-oriented tourism on marine species and prospects for their sustainable management. J Environ Manage 151:210–220CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Butler RW (2006) The concept of a tourist area cycle of evolution: implications for management of resources. In: Butler RW (ed) The tourism area life cycle: applications and modifications. Channel View Publications, Clevedon, vol 1, pp 3–12Google Scholar
  16. Catlin J, Jones R (2010) Whale shark tourism at Ningaloo Marine Park: a longitudinal study of wildlife tourism. Tour Manag 31:386–394CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Catlin J et al (2010) Consolidation in a wildlife tourism industry: the changing impact of whale shark tourist expenditure in the Ningaloo coast region. Int J Tourism Res 12:134–148Google Scholar
  18. Catlin J et al (2013) Valuing individual animals through tourism: science or speculation? Biol Cons 157:93–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cisneros-Montemayor AM et al (2013) Global economic value of shark ecotourism: implications for conservation. OryxGoogle Scholar
  20. Colman, J. (1997). Whale shark interaction management, with particular reference to Ningaloo Marine Park, 1997–2007, Department of Conservation and Land ManagementGoogle Scholar
  21. Curtin S (2009) Wildlife tourism: the intangible, psychological benefits of human–wildlife encounters. Curr Issues Tour 12(5–6):451–474CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Davis D et al (1997) Whale sharks in Ningaloo Marine Park: managing tourism in an Australian marine protected area. Tour Manag 18:259–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dearden P et al (2006) Implications for coral reef conservation of diver specialization. Environ Conserv 33:353–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Diamantis D (2004) Ecotourism: management and assessment. Thomson Learning, PadstowGoogle Scholar
  25. Dicken M (2014) Socio-economic aspects of the Sodwana Bay SCUBA diving industry, with a specific focus on sharks. Afr J Mar Sci 36(1):39–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dicken ML, Hosking SG (2009) Socio-economic aspects of the tiger shark diving industry within the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area, South Africa. Afr J Mar Sci 31:227–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Du Preez M et al (2012) The value of tiger shark diving within the Aliwal shoal marine protected area: a travel cost analysis. S Afr J Econ 80:387–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Duffus DA, Dearden P (1990) Non-consumptive wildlife oriented recreation: a conceptual framework. Biol Cons 53:213–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Dwyer L et al (2010) Tourism economics and policy. Channel View Publications, BristolGoogle Scholar
  30. Edney J (2012) Diver characteristics, motivations, and attitudes: Chuuk Lagoon. Tou Marine Environ 8(1–2):7–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Environment Australia (2002) Recovery plan for the grey nurse shark (Carcharius taurus) in Australia. Canberra, Australia, Environment AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  32. Farr M et al (2014) The non-consumptive (tourism)‘value’of marine species in the Northern section of the Great Barrier Reef. Marine Policy 43:89–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Fitzpatrick R et al (2011) Variation in depth of whitetip reef sharks: does provisioning ecotourism change their behaviour? Coral Reefs 30:569–577CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Fowler SL (2000) Whale shark Rhincodon typus. Policy and research scoping paper. Nature Conservation Bureau, LondonGoogle Scholar
  35. Gallagher AJ, Hammerschlag N (2011) Global shark currency: the distribution, frequency, and economic value of shark ecotourism. Curr Issues Tour 14(8):797–812CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Graham R (2004) Global whale shark tourism: a “golden goose” of sustainable and lucrative income. Shark News 16:8–9Google Scholar
  37. Green R, Giese M (2004) Negative effects of wildlife tourism on wildlife. In: Higginbottom K (ed) Wildlife tourism: impacts, management and planning. Gold Coast, Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research CentreGoogle Scholar
  38. Green RJ, Higginbottom K (2001) Status assessment of wildlife tourism in Australia series: the negative effects of wildlife tourism on wildlife. Wildlife Tourism Research Report Gold Coast, Queensland, CRC for Sustainable TourismGoogle Scholar
  39. Griffith Institute for Tourism (2014) Nature-based tourism in Australia. Year ending December 2014. In: Moyle B, McLennan C-L, Becken S, Battye R, Godfrey A (eds) Tourism Research AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  40. Hara M et al (2003) Marine-based tourism in Gansbaai: a socio-economic study. University of the Western Cape, South Africa, The Department of Environmental Affairs Programme for Land and Agrarian StudiesGoogle Scholar
  41. Higginbottom K, Tribe A (2004) Contributions of wildlife tourism to conservation. Wildlife tourism: Impacts, management and planning. In: Higginbottom K (ed) Gold coast. Common Ground Publishing, CRC for Sustainable Tourism, pp 99–123Google Scholar
  42. Huveneers C, Robbins W (2014) Species at the intersection. In: Techera E, Klein N (eds) Sharks: conservation, governance and management, pp 236–260Google Scholar
  43. Just RE et al (2004) The welfare economics of public policy. A practical approach to project and policy evaluation. Edward Elgar Publishing, CheltenhamGoogle Scholar
  44. Newman H et al (2002) Whale shark tagging and ecotourism. In: Fowler S, Reid T, Dipper FA (eds) Elasmobranch biodiversity, conservation and management. IUCN, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  45. Norman B (2002) Review of current and historical research on the ecology of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), and applications to conservation through management of the species. CALM, PerthGoogle Scholar
  46. NSW Department of Primary Industries (2011) Discussion paper for grey nurse shark protection. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Nelson BayGoogle Scholar
  47. NSW Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (2007) Fishing and diving rules at Greynurse Shark aggregation sites. Retrieved 6 May 2009, from
  48. O’Connor S et al (2009) Whale watching worldwide: tourism numbers, expenditures and expanding economic benefits, a special report from the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Yarmouth MA, USAGoogle Scholar
  49. Orams M (2002) Feeding wildlife as a tourism attraction: a review of issues and impacts. Tour Manag 23:281–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Otway NM et al (2003) Monitoring and identification of NSW critical habitat sites for conservation of grey nurse sharks. NSW Fisheries, Sydney, p 62Google Scholar
  51. Pollard DA (1996) The biology and conservation status of the grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus Rafinesque 1810) in New South Wales, Australia. Aquat Conserv 6:1–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Pollard DA et al (2003) Red list assessment. The conservation status of Australasian Chondrichthyans. Report of the IUCN shark specialist group Australia and Oceania regional red list workshop; Queensland, Australia, 7–9 March 2003. In: Cavanagh R, Kyne P, Fowler SL, Musick JA, Bennett MB (eds) Brisbane, Australia, The University of Queensland, School of Biomedical Sciences, p. 170Google Scholar
  53. Rowat D, Engelhardt U (2007) Seychelles: a case study of community involvement in the development of whale shark ecotourism and its socio-economic impact. Fish Res 84:109–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Shackley M (1996) Wildlife tourism. International Thomson Business Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  55. Scheyvens R (1999) Ecotourism and the empowerment of local communities. Tour Manag 20:245–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Smith K et al (2010) Grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus) diving tourism: tourist compliance and shark behaviour at Fish Rock, Australia. Environ Manage 46:699–710CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Smith KR et al (2016) Scuba-diving impacts and environmental influences on the patrolling behaviour of grey nurse sharks (Carcharias taurus): a preliminary assessment using acoustic telemetry at Fish Rock, Australia. Tour Marine Environ 12(1):17–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Stoeckl N et al (2005) Regional economic dependence on iconic wildlife tourism: case studies of Monkey Mia and Hervey Bay. J Tour Stud 16(1):69Google Scholar
  59. Stoeckl N et al (2010a) Live-aboard dive boats in the Great Barrier Reef: regional economic impact and the relative values of their target marine species. Tour Econ 16(4):995–1018CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stoeckl N et al (2010b) Understanding the Social and Economic Values of Key Marine Species in the Great Barrier Reef: MTSRF Project 4.8. 6 (a) Final Report, June 2010 with a section focusing on marine turtlesGoogle Scholar
  61. Tisdell C (2012) Economic benefits, conservation and wildlife tourism. Working paper no. 181. Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, University of QueenslandGoogle Scholar
  62. Vianna GMS et al (2011) The socio-economic value of the shark-diving industry in Fiji. University of Western Australia, Perth, Australian Institute of Marine ScienceGoogle Scholar
  63. Vianna G et al (2013) Valuing individual animals through tourism: science or speculation? Reply to Catlin et al. (2013). Biol Conserv 166: 301–302Google Scholar
  64. Vianna G et al (2016) Indicators of fishing mortality on reef-shark populations in the world’s first shark sanctuary: the need for surveillance and enforcement. Coral Reefs 1–5(35): 973–977Google Scholar
  65. Vianna GMS, Meekan M (2012) The economics of shark diving in the Semporna region, Malaysia. Perth, Western Australia, Australian Institute of Marine Science. University of Western AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  66. Vianna G et al (2012) Socio-economic value and community benefits from shark-diving tourism in Palau: a sustainable use of reef shark populations. Biol Cons 145:267–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wearing S, Neil J (2009) Ecotourism: impacts, potentials, and possibilities. Butterworth-Heinemann, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  68. Wells MP (1997) Economic perspectives on nature tourism, conservation and development, Environment Department, World BankGoogle Scholar
  69. Wilson C, Tisdell C (2003) Conservation and economic benefits of wildlife-based marine tourism: sea turtles and whales as case studies. Hum Dimens Wildl 8(1):49–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Wilson SG et al (2001) The seasonal aggregation of whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia: currents, migrations and the El Nino/Southern Oscillation. Environ Biol Fishes 61:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Zeppel H (2008) Education and conservation benefits of marine wildlife tours: developing free-choice learning experiences. J Environ Educ 39(3):3–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Australian Institute of Marine SciencePerthAustralia
  3. 3.School of Environment, Science and EngineeringSouthern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia
  4. 4.Oceans Institute and School of Biological SciencesUniversity of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia
  5. 5.Oceans Institute and Centre for Environmental Economics and PolicyUniversity of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia

Personalised recommendations