The Dollars and Sense of Sharks in The Bahamas: Non-consumptive economic valuation as a tool for conserving elasmobranch resources
Presented by Edward Brooks
Andrea Haas, Edward Brooks, and Tony Fedler
As apex predators, sharks have significant ecological value in our oceans, however this argument has had little influence in halting ongoing population declines around the world. The non-consumptive value of marine resources such as whales, turtles, and sharks is emerging as one of many new tools in the conservation toolbox. In this study, the non-consumptive value of sharks and rays in The Bahamas was examined from several standpoints: scuba diving and tourism, film and television, and research interests. Each sector was surveyed regarding its economic contributions to The Bahamas economy, either through in-person confidential interviews, or online anonymous surveys. In addition to the economic assessment of all of the above sectors, recreational scuba divers were surveyed to generate qualitative data including 1) their knowledge of shark conservation, 2) their motivations to visit The Bahamas for scuba diving, 3) their agreement with baited shark diving, and 4) their willingness to pay a premium that would help support shark conservation and management in The Bahamas. Our assessment provides not only an overall value of these animals at the national level, but a sector-specific and species-specific valuation as well. We demonstrate that conservation of elasmobranch resources has vast benefits for the economy if The Bahamas, and we discuss further policy recommendations for the future of shark management in the island nation and wider Caribbean.