Johanna Sophie Zimmerhackel
Thesis: Interactions of Diving Tourism and Fisheries in Marine Protected Areas: Market Values and Alternative Approaches to Deter Illegal Fishing in the Maldives Shark Sanctuary.
Illegal fishing is one of the most challenging issues in achieving conservation targets in marine protected areas. Recently, there are indications that dive operators have the capacity to reduce incentives for illegal fishing through contributing to economic developments, surveillance activities and social programs. This project aims at improving the knowledge about the influence of dive operators on fishers’ compliance in the Maldives shark sanctuary. We will use survey techniques to determine the financial revenue of the shark diving industry and examine the historical development of its’ socio-economic importance. Surveys will also explore whether illegal fishing influences the trip demand of tourists and analyse what different circumstances are most likely to motivate dive operators to address illegal fishing. Finally, we will use a Bayesian Network model to investigate what effects dive operators’ actions have on fishers’ compliance, the condition of shark populations and ultimately the number of tourists visiting the area.
Why my research is important
The diving industry contributes essentially to the Maldivian economy and marine megafauna like sharks are an important asset of this industry. Thus, a threat on shark populations because of illegal fishing activities could affect the revenues they bring for a variety of groups in the society. Moreover, the reduction of shark populations can cause negative impacts on the productivity of marine ecosystems and a healthy marine environment is the basis of all life support systems, including that of human well-being and socio-economic development. Improving the effectiveness of conservation measures for threatened species like sharks is therefore crucial in promoting economic, social and environmental sustainability. Outcomes of this study can help improve fishers’ compliance and diminish user conflicts between the diving tourism industry and the fisheries sector. Hence, this project can contribute to the conservation of shark populations with positive outcomes for the economy, community and marine ecosystems of the Maldives.