The Inertia for Good Editor
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great white shark from below

A recent resource valuation report estimates the Guadalupe Great White Shark population’s conservation value is worth $123.1 million. Photo: Francesco Califano on Unsplash


The Inertia

As far as we can tell, nobody’s ever taken the time to conduct a resource valuation for sharks. We do know shark fishing represents a healthy amount of revenue in plenty of places around the world, for example, with estimates topping $1 billion annually for things like sharks’ fins, meat, and more. But analyzing the value healthy shark populations offer is a totally different ballgame. In other words, how valuable is shark conservation as opposed to the value of killing them?

The non-profit Shark Allies teamed up with Endangered Wildlife OÜ recently to determine just how much a healthy, living and breathing shark is worth. It’s an intriguing thought and a unique way to approach conservation efforts, with the non-profit taking up the opinion that if we aren’t doing enough to save and protect sharks now, maybe assigning a profit margin to that task will incentivize some people.

“Valuation reports are an invaluable tool for shark conservation in a world that is sadly more interested in the economic value of a species rather than its contribution to and right to live on this planet,” says Chris Fallows, a shark conservationist and photographer.

The first two reports from Shark Allies focused on individual species in specific areas: white sharks in Guadalupe, Mexico, and hammerhead sharks in the Bahamas. They estimated the total conservation value for Guadalupe’s white shark population to be $123.1 million and $29.4 million for the hammerheads valuation in the Bahamas.

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How’d they arrive at these numbers? For one, they accounted for the obvious things like how and if they have any value to tourism, the value of documentaries highlighting them, etc. But as apex predators, they also have to account for the financial impact a healthy shark population has on just about any other species in their respective ecosystem.

“One of the important elements in valuing the ecosystem services sharks provide is to look at the key local food web interactions for the white shark resident in the waters around Isla Guadalupe and other species that co-habitat the waters,” the report says. “It includes predators and prey. The relationship matrix is vital in understanding the importance of the white shark relative to the other species.”

Photo: Shark Allies

The report lays out a lot of numbers, like an “aesthetic value” ($4.9 million) and “species existence value” ($90.2 million), ultimately distilling it all down to a single number for a single shark living a full life.

“It is estimated that there are approximately 10,000 great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias), also known as White Sharks, left worldwide,” they wrote. “This means that the white shark population is smaller than the global lion population. Roughly 380 of them regularly visit Isla Guadalupe in Mexico during part of the year.”

That final number for one of those 380 sharks regularly seen around Isla Guadalupe? $1,089,125.

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The baseline value of the white shark population in the Isla Guadalupe waters is $123.1 million over a 30-year period. This value is comprised of the following:

+ Aesthetic Value: $4.9 million

+ Economic Value: $83.5 million

+ Hedge Value: $1.8 million

= Species Existence value: $90.2 million

+ Impact Value: $32.8 million

= Total Conservation Value: $123.1 million

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