Shark-diving tourism has become a global phenomenon and is widely promoted to contribute to pro-conservation attitudes by dispelling myths and exposing tourists to sharks in their natural habitat. It has also resulted in a stimulating scientific literature identifying pros and cons of practices, elucidating potential biological effects on associated species, and evaluating social implications. With the worldwide popularization of shark tourism in recent years, a set of new challenges facing shark-diving tourism is starting to emerge. Here, we offer our thoughts on four topics that have developed into challenges for shark-related wildlife tourism: animal welfare, ecological interactions, fitness and bioenergetics, and public safety. Our discussion primarily involves perspectives on white shark operations, and, to a lesser extent, whale shark tourism. We contend that our opinions do not necessarily reflect the most important issues to shark-diving tourism; instead, we suggest that they are timely and that this paper should be considered an ‘open letter’ to researchers and policy-makers. Consideration of emerging challenges to any field are important for adaptive management and as such will be of interest to operators and resource managers tasked with ensuring sustainable practices.
- Wildlife tourism