In the wake of speculation about the possibility of the Maldivian government lifting the ban on shark fishing in the country’s waters, a large number of diving and environmental groups have called on the government to continue to enforce the legal protections of sharks.
In a statement issue this week, PADI said its staff had met with Maldivian Minister of Fisheries, Marine Resources, and Agriculture Zaha Waheed to reinforce the position of the dive community about the critical role sharks play in dive tourism.
PADI said Waheed had given assurances that no such lifting of the ban on shark fishing would take place.
According to Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide:
“Sharks are a dominant force in dive tourism in the Maldives. We congratulate the Maldives’s commitment to their ongoing protection. The Maldives continues to lead by example, among the most progressive countries on this critical issue.”
There are currently 17 shark sanctuaries in the world; the first was established in Palau in 2009 and others in popular dive destinations including French Polynesia, Honduras, The Bahamas and several others in the Caribbean. The Maldives shark sanctuary was established in 2010 and covers 916,000 square kilometers (353,000 square miles).
PADI noted in its statement that tourism accounts for an estimated 25 percent of The Maldives’ GDP (according to 2014 figures), with diving and snorkeling being the most popular tourism activity.
Before The Maldives sanctuary was formed, shark fishing was worth US$700,000 (~581,350 Euros) to the country’s economy, compared to $2.3 million (1.9 million Euros) from shark tourism, according to PADI. In 2018, the shark sanctuary increased dive-trip demand in the Maldives by 15 percent, raising an additional $6 million (~4.98 million Euros).
“Consumer research indicates that any re-opening of a Maldives shark fishery could potentially decrease dive tourism demand by over 50 percent, which could result in a loss of US$24 million.”