When Sharks Walk, Money Talks

Finding a new species of walking shark isn’t just a cool thing to list on your resume; it’s a boost to marine conservation. Unique and fascinating marine animals help draw scuba diving and snorkeling tourists,  and that gives governments an incentive to protect their reefs.

So far, scientists have discovered nine species of walking sharks, called epaulettes.  The most recently confirmed species was found in Indonesian waters (where six of the other eight live). The two to three foot long shark has been named emiscyllium Halmahera after the remote eastern Indonesian island of Halmahera where it was discovered.

As an example of how a species that draws tourists can benefit a country, this study in the journal PLOS found that manta-ray watching operations brought in millions of dollars for 23 countries.

. . .We estimated that direct revenue to dive operators from manta ray dives and snorkels at over US$73 million annually and direct economic impact, including associated tourism expenditures, of US$140 million annually.

It’s true that wading near the beach and diving underwater with manta rays is pretty glamorous. Dive operators may  not be able to build an entire tourist industry around diving with walking sharks, but it’s definitely something worth advertising.  Check out the video above from Ocean Conservation International.  It shows how emiscyllium Halmahera uses its fins to walk across the sea floor.