Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Shark Tourism Possible Revenue-Generating Resource for NMI

Re-printed from the Marianas Variety

‘Shark tourism’ a possible revenue-generating resource for NMI
Wednesday, January 26, 2011 12:00AM By Raquel C. Bagnol - Reporter
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WITH over 30 species in CNMI waters, “shark tourism” can be a possible resource to generate more revenues in the commonwealth.

“Sharkwater” director Rob Stewart asks the community to support the anti-shark fin law during the Saipan Rotary Club meeting at the Hyatt yesterday. Photo by Raquel C. Bagnol “Sharkwater” director Rob Stewart, who was yesterday’s speaker at the Saipan Rotary Club meeting at the Hyatt, said shark tourism is a form of ecotourism in which the communities help tourists and divers see live sharks.

Stewart said shark tourism is becoming a success in some places such as Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Bahamas and Palau.

“Each year, hundreds of divers and tourists come to these places to see live sharks underwater, and this is one way the CNMI can benefit from its underwater resources,” he said.

He also discussed the importance of the shark fin ban measure, which the governor is scheduled to sign on Thursday.

He said the CNMI will become one of the few jurisdictions in the world to ban shark finning.

“Shark finning is an unmonitored and unmanaged multi-billion dollar industry, and each year, over 100 million sharks are killed for their fins,” Stewart said.

A pound of dried shark fin can retail for $300 to $400, and shark finning has increased for the past decades due to the increased demand for shark fin soup and traditional cures, he added.

Stewart said it took him over five years to film “Sharkwater,” a documentary which won 22 international awards, and his aim is to get people to think of sharks differently.

“Sharks are not dangerous. They’re not mindless killers and they are not interested in people. Sharks are the ones who are in danger around people,” he said.

He said people should start to realize that “if we are going to survive on this planet as a species, we need to conserve it and protect the sharks.”

Steward said shark finning, which is the removal of shark fins and discarding the shark carcass back to the sea, is equivalent to cutting off a man’s arms and legs and throwing him into the forest.

“Sharks sometimes take a day or two to die and when they are tossed back into the sea without fins, they will be unable to swim. They sink slowly toward the bottom of the sea and wait to die and be eaten by other fish,” Stewart said.

He said any shark regardless of age and size of species can become the victim of shark finning anywhere in the world.

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