The new “walking” shark species was found off the remote eastern Indonesian island of Halmahera.
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For nearly three decades, Indonesia has led the world in the export of dried shark fins and other shark-related products, averaging over 100,000 tons of sharks and rays landed each year. However, as evidenced by this week’s announcement of the new species of “walking” shark, Indonesia has made great strides towards protecting these fascinating species in the last year.
The reversal from exploitation to conservation has been attributed to several factors. With the maturing of Indonesia’s economy there has been a tremendous increase in awareness of the shark and ray declines with the rising popularity of scuba diving. There is also a growing awareness within the government of the shark’s important ecological role in maintaining healthy fish stocks, as well as the economic potential of marine tourism. According to a recent study looking at global manta tourism, Indonesia ranks second as a global manta tourism destination, providing an estimated $15 million annually to the Indonesian economy.