This mornings Slate.com features one of the best written looks at shark tourism we have seen in the past few months. A first person account (Elisabeth Eaves) of Roatans Waihuka Diving
Here's an excerpt:
A fisherman on Roatán can get about $40 for one of these sharks, or $720 for 18. Waihuka gets about $80 per diver, so $960 on this 12-customer dive. They can charge $960 for those same sharks again and again, and the sharks don't have to die: The resource is renewable. Assuming similar overhead (a boat, an outboard engine, gasoline), shark-watching is more profitable for the locals than shark-fishing, and it conserves nature rather than decimating it.
Doesn't that make shark diving a good thing? The rosy view of eco-tourism would say we should exploit shark viewing to stop shark fishing. Hire the fishermen as dive masters, and you've got a win-win-win for locals, tourists, and sharks. Shark-watch businesses further argue that the more people have happy encounters with the animal, the more public support there will be for researching and protecting it. (The whale-watching industry plausibly advances a similar argument.