If done right, swimming with great white sharks can help save them. That’s the conclusion of a new study from the University of Miami.
While some may think that sharks scare tourists out of the water, the study explores how plunking oneself in a cage as sharks encircle has become so popular that sharks are worth more alive than dead to global tourism.
Great white sharks might not be around in South Africa if it wasn’t for the tourism industry, according to Austin Gallagher, one of the researchers on the study.
“They would be hunted, fished, and poached,” Gallagher told reporter John R. Platt from the website Take Part. “The only reason they are able to survive is because tourism operators there are generating a lot of socioeconomic benefits."
However, the practiced of shark-dive tourism remains unregulated with individual operators around the world setting their own standards, for better or worse. This has resulted in some negative impacts for many different types of sharks from great whites to whale and tiger sharks, according to the study. The practice has shown to alter the behavior of sharks from their feeding habit to what part of the ocean they swim in. Boat propellers have also gashed some sharks.
The study proposes creating a voluntary code of conduct for shark-dive operators to ensure the safety of the sharks, marking operators on elements such as conservation, environmental sustainability and education for human participants.