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Shark diving tourism contributed a giant FJD $73 million to Fiji's economy in 2010, says a finding by the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Western Australia.

And Tourism Fiji says the study into the socio-economic value of the shark-diving industry in Fiji shows importance of sharks' role in Fiji tourism with shark-diving operations in 2010 generating FJD $4 million for Fijian communities through salaries and local levies.

The study found that "one in ten tourists" visiting Fiji engaged in diving activities and in particular, diving with sharks has become more popular over the past several years.

Fiji dive company Aquatrek's manager of dive operations Brandon Paige told e-Travel Blackboard that the number of travellers booking has seen a significant increase since it started.

Better known as shark specialists, Aquatrek gets divers from all over the world wanting to experience the shark dives more than just the soft coral diving.

Paige commented on the already visible need for shark conservation saying while the tiger shark is the most requested to sight, they are not seen as often as they used to be.

Manager of global shark conservation at the Pew Environment Group Jill Hepp said Fiji's move to declare a shark sanctuary would solidify its reputation as one of the top diving destinations in the world.

The waters of the Fiji islands are home to at least 75 different shark and ray species and according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of threatened species, 66 per cent of these species are globally threatened or near threatened.

Fiji has strong measures implemented to safeguard the marine environment however there is no specific protections for sharks.

By Ropate Valemei





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