Date posted: 1/12/2016 2 min read

The economics of shark management

Shark mitigation strategies are under review, amid concerns about their cost and effectiveness

In brief

  • The economic efficiency of shark meshing programmes is disputed
  • Western Australia spent A$28m on shark attack mitigation (culling) between 2008 and 2015
  • Shark ecotourism is estimated to earn US$314m per year, worldwide

Net gains?

The NSW shark meshing programme (shark nets) protects 51 beaches at a cost of around A$1.5m per year. Interfering with the nets carries a maximum fine of A$5,500.

The economic efficiency of the program is disputed, with critics pointing out that shark attacks still occur at beaches with shark nets. In NSW, there were 36 attacks at four beaches without nets over a combined 222 years — and 24 attacks at the same four beaches with nets in place over a combined 214 years.

Queensland’s Shark Safety program costs around A$1.7m per year.

Western Australia spent A$28m on shark attack mitigation (culling rather than nets is used in WA) between 2008 and 2015.

Fifty shark attacks have been recorded in New Zealand (to 2014). Dunedin phased out shark nets in 2004 amid concerns about their effectiveness and the annual cost of around NZ$40,000 per year.

Big fish

Shark ecotourism is estimated to earn US$314m per year, worldwide. A study of Western Australian shark tourism in 2009 valued the industry at A$5.5m. A study in Fiji suggests that in 2011 the industry earned a whopping US$42.2m. That tourism dollar benefits the government as well as tourism operators, with nearly US$6m collected by the Fiji government in direct taxes.

The most expensive shark on the planet is worth US$12m. And it’s dead.

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living is a tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde by avant garde artist Damien Hirst. It was commissioned by advertising guru Charles Saatchi and is currently owned by hedge fund manager Stephen A Cohen — who is variously said to have paid between US$8m and US$12m for the work. It has been displayed on loan at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

“Sharks are among the most perfectly constructed creatures in nature. Some forms have survived for two hundred million years.” – Eugenie “The Shark Lady” Clark, US marine biologist.

This article was first published in the February 2016 issue of Acuity magazine.

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