Written by Jennifer Cole, Media and Conservation Specialist, White Shark Africa, wsaecoprogram.co.za
Eco-tourism is a business platform that supports local communities, encourages sustainable practices and promotes conservation through educational and cultural insight. An existing market of shark products has caused a significant decline in population numbers of many species. It is estimated that up to as many as 273 million sharks are being killed every year. Protected in South Africa since 1991, the Great White sharks charismatic qualities attract thousands of visitors to Mossel Bay annually. Several studies have shown that the revenue produced by shark Eco-tourism, makes sharks worth more alive than dead.
Utilizing the knowledge and practices of locally experienced people enables business’s to maximize the quality of the visitor’s experience through cultural immersion. Tours that specialize in local area attractions provide people with personal insights and give them a special connection to the place. Eco-tourism supplies job opportunities to the local community and can provide the ability to expand on skills and knowledge with or without previous experience or degrees. This in turn empowers the local people and incorporates cultural influences through the work atmosphere.
Sustainable business certifications and green practices not only help improve business functionality, but also help in the efforts of having a low environmental impact. Eco-friendly companies such as White Shark Africa, have found a way to promote sustainable practices and encourage the survival of these animals as a local, economic asset. Setting an example to the community and clientele increases business quality and adds credentials. With the importance of local biodiversity as an asset, conservation is then valued and integrated into business planning.
The ability to use multiple educational avenues in Eco-tourism maximizes the potential for spreading awareness. Activities such as cage diving provide the platform to providing information and suggestions on how anyone can get involved. White Shark Africa offers a volunteer based Eco-program available to anyone with no previous experience or degree necessary. This aids in the progression of shark sciences, raising public awareness, training new educators and promoting conservation efforts.
Take into consideration the practice of finning as a contributor to the shark population declination’s. After being caught, the fins of the shark are cut off and the shark is then thrown back into the water yielding an estimated 95% waste. The fin is used as a main ingredient in shark fin soup which represents a wealthy status in Chinese tradition.
Finning is a multi-billion dollar industry that supports a large portion of China’s economy. For that reason it will not be a stoppable practice until the worst happens: there are no more sharks. The absence of sharks will cause a catastrophic collapse of the ocean’s ecosystems and effect us in ways we can’t even comprehend. What we need to recognize is that educating people about finning or telling them to stop is not going to change the situation. The real challenge we face is coming up with a counter solution and a means of compensation for the economy lost if it were to stop. Without this, countries who depend on this revenue for economic support are never going to consider sustainable practices. We have been at it long enough to know that the large fishing companies are not concerned with the balance of the Eco-systems, the number of shark being killed per year or the amount of damage being done due to the valued tradition of shark fin soup consumption. We have a tendency to point fingers at the people employed for these companies. It’s not to say that informing people about these issues doesn’t have an influence, it just simply doesn’t put food on their tables. This then requires a solution that meets halfway: supports both economic stability and sustainability. Adopting Eco-tourism as a future business model could offer common grounds for constructive advancements.
Eco-tourism has some key components that offer a solution to improve future business practices towards a sustainable future that other business models do not. With tourism already being a multi-billion dollar industry in place, most of the job is already done. It could be used or integrated everywhere tourism already exists or is developed . It provides a platform that entails Education, Conservation, Public awareness and Science advancement. So why are we not emphasizing more on Eco-tourism and building on what we already have in place to ensure the future ability of business advancement?
It’s time we accept responsibility that we have all played a part in damaging our natural resources and animal populations. Instead of resorting to activism and finger pointing, we should combine forces to help economy’s that rely heavily on natural resource extractions come up with solutions. Companies with experience in sustainability can then be used as leading examples and educators.
To inquire more about what you can do to save sharks click here: 10 ways to Save Sharks
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