Whale shark economics: a valuation of wildlife tourism in South Ari Atoll, Maldives

Author(s): Edgar Fernando Cagua, Neal Collins, James Hancock and Richard Rees
Cagua et al. (2014),Whale shark economics: a valuation of wildlife tourism in South Ari Atoll, Maldives. PeerJ 2:e515; DOI 10.7717/peerj.515
Keywords: Economic valuation,Wildlife tourism,Whale shark, Maldives, Regression model, Direct spend, MPA management, Shark watching


Whale sharks attract large numbers of tourists, divers and snorkelers each year to
South Ari Atoll in the Republic ofMaldives. Yet without information regarding the
use and economic extent of the attraction, it is difficult to prioritize conservation
or implement effective management plans. We used empirical recreational data
and generalized mixed statistical models to conduct the first economic valuation
(with direct spend as the primary proxy) of whale shark tourism in Maldives. We
estimated that direct expenditures for whale shark focused tourism in the South Ari
Marine Protected Area for 2012 and 2013 accounted for US$7.6 and $9.4 million
respectively. These expenditures are based on an estimate of 72,000–78,000 tourists
who are involved in whale shark excursions annually. That substantial amount of
income to resort owners and operators, and tourism businesses in a relatively small
area highlights the need to implement regulations and management that safeguard
the sustainability of the industry through ensuring guest satisfaction and whale shark

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