Why Mexican Fishermen Are Going from Shark Hunting to Shark Protecting
Lucas Isakowitz - Fusion
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June 7, 2017

Fusion's environmental correspondent Nicolas Ibargüen traveled to the Bahamas to explore whether ecotourism could be the key to saving the world’s sharks. (Project Earth)

Could shark tourism help save wild sharks? As shark-watching and diving operations have grown increasingly popular, so too has the revenue generated by the shark tourism industry (now in the hundreds of millions of dollars, according to researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada). The result is that sharks are worth far more alive than dead, and countries are realizing that they stand to benefit by protecting their shark populations.

In Puerto San Carlos, an NGO called Pelagic Life is working to convert convert local fishermen from shark hunters to shark conservationists. By creating alternative job opportunities for the 70 families that rely on shark fishing for their livelihood, Pelagic Life hopes to both uplift the local economy and give sharks some much needed space.

“The shark fishing community here is quite large and we wanted to turn them to the other side and let them know… that they can actually earn a much better living through ecotourism than what they are currently going through with shark fishing,” explained Pierre Vignal, a former project manager for Pelagic Life. “The current tourist operators generate roughly nine million USD per year, and the community generated two million dollars a year through fishing… so, you have a 400% increase through tourism.” Since starting the project, Pelagic Life has recruited nine former fishermen families to work on shark tourism. Still, with an estimated 200 sharks taken per day during the fishing season, Pelagic Life has a lot of work to do.

Jorge Alvaro Laguna Negreta, a shark fisherman from Puerto San Carlos, explained why he is considering moving into the shark tourism industry: global overfishing has made it so much harder for small scale fishermen to make a living. In years prior, Negreta received about 3,000 pesos (about 160 USD) per shark; now prices are about half of that, bringing in a mere 1,500 pesos per shark. Moreover, as sharks have been put under more and more pressure, local fishermen have had to work harder and travel farther from shore to make a living. Negreta explained that he would be willing to make a career change: “We have never worked with that [shark tourism] but if it has to do with working and making money easier, it would be better.”

The fishing takes place at night and it is very dangerous…you have to go because there is nothing else to do.

“I don’t like it [shark fishing] but when the need is there, you have to do it,” explained Jorge Armando Cervantes Cervantes, another shark fishermen. “The fishing takes place at night and it is very dangerous…you have to go because there is nothing else to do.”

Shark Tourism will premiere on Fusion TV on June 8th at 10pm ET.

Read the rest at Fusion

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