“Jaws” and tourism

It was 1975 and the concept of the “blockbuster film” was in its infancy. A young director named Steven Spielberg adapted Peter Benchley’s harrowing novel Jaws into the first bona fide summer spectacular that changed the face of modern cinema forever. What was once revered was now hated and feared.

Sharks: big fish with large teeth that are remorseless in their pursuit of our feeble flesh. Spielberg and Benchley both would come to regret that imprint of sharks in our psyche. It has been many years since, but our fascination with those finned fiends has not subsided. The tourism sector attested to that.
 
A study by the North-West University’s (NWU’s) research unit Tourism Research in Economics, Environs and Society (TREES) titled “I would die to see one: a study to evaluate safety knowledge, attitude and behaviour among shark scuba divers”, proves that, and a bit more.

“Shark diving tourism is an activity that can contribute significantly to coastal economies, while also offering tremendous help to shark conservation efforts,” the paper reads.

“Nevertheless, like any form of wildlife-based tourism, shark diving poses management challenges revolving around ethical and safety regulations.”

Through comprehensive interviews and a wide-ranging questionnaire, the study found that there is a need to create an understanding among scuba divers of the connection between shark diving safety and conservation for the future of shark diving tourism and of sharks.

The results highlight the negative implications of safety breaches, whether big or small. Shark diving is a growing tourism industry with major potential, and if done within the constraints of the current marine conservation laws, can aid greatly in the preservation of sharks.

Sharks are under threat from anthropogenic (human-induced) pressures such as fishing. If activities such as shark diving are carried out with supervisors who can secure the safety of divers while simultaneously caring for the increasingly fragile environment of shark habitats, all will benefit, according to the TREES study. 

Submitted by MARELIZE SANTANA on Tue, 03/16/2021 - 14:29