Shark diving tourism is a growing industry estimated to be worth more than $25.5 million annually in Australia.

A new report has documented the value on marine wildlife tourism, underlining a need for adequate management of shark species to ensure a sustainable dive tourism industry.

In Australia, there are four major shark tourism industries – snorkelling with whale sharks off Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, cage-diving with white sharks off Port Lincoln in South Australia, diving with grey nurse sharks off the coast of New South Wales and Queensland, and swimming with reef sharks at Osprey Reef in far North Queensland.

White Shark, Carcharodon carchariasImage: Sharkdiver68
White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias

The research aimed to provide an estimate of the economic value of shark diving tourism across Australia to help inform decisions about how sharks are managed.

“On top of costs directly associated with shark viewing, white shark and whale shark tourists spend as much again in additional expenditure in the region,” Associate Professor Huveneers, Lead author of the study, says.

The economic value of shark diving does not flow solely to the industry, but is also spread across the region – even in countries with developed economies that are not typically considered to have a dependence on tourism for revenue.”

AIMS marine biologist and co-author of the study Dr Mark Meekan says wildlife tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry, but the impact to the natural environment must be measured.

“This reiterates the importance of adequate management of these industries to ensure sustainable practices, so future generations have the opportunity to view and interact with sharks in the wild in the same way that we currently can,” he says.

Whale sharks, known as the gentle giants of the sea, are the most popular drawcard for tourists who spent an estimated $11.6 million for the snorkelling experience.

Whale shark by Tim Nicholson
Snorkelling with Whale shark by Tim Nicholson

The study surveyed 711 tourist divers over a one year period and documented their expenditure, including accommodation, transport, living costs, and other related activities during divers’ trips.

About half the white shark divers were domestic visitors but the highest percentage of domestic tourists were found in the grey nurse shark-diving industry, at 59 per cent.

Most tourists in whale shark snorkelling tours were international tourists (55%) and only 29% were Australian.

Where do the divers go in Australia?

Dive Sites Number of divers
Osprey Reef, far North Queensland 18,848 tourist divers
(reef sharks)
Neptune Islands, South Australia 10,236 tourist divers
(white sharks)
Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia 22,124 tourist divers
(whale sharks)
South East Queensland (Wolf Rock and Julian Rock) and NSW (Fish Rock and Magic Point) 13,978 tourist divers
(grey nurse sharks).


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The study was a collaboration between the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Flinders University, University of Western Australia, and Southern Cross University documented the shark tourism industry.

Further Reading

Charlie Huveneers et al, “The economic value of shark-diving tourism in Australia” Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, September 2017, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 665–680

Image credits:

  • White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias: Sharkdiver68


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