Known unknowns: Conservation and research priorities for soft sediment fauna that supports a valuable SCUBA diving industry

Maarten De Brauwer, Michael Burton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Wildlife tourism can provide sustainable livelihoods, but can also significantly impact vulnerable species if improperly managed. To manage these impacts whilst continuing to support livelihoods, it is important to know the interests of tourists. Using the Best-Worst scaling method, we identified taxa that were most important to scuba dive tourism on shallow soft sediment habitats in Southeast Asia. We further identified differences in interest between demographic groups. We then investigated the current conservation status and research effort into the species driving this branch of tourism. The highest ranked taxa included fishes and invertebrates such as cephalopods and crustaceans. More than 200 respondents indicated that the species most important to muck dive tourism are mimic octopus/wunderpus, blue ringed octopus, rhinopias, flamboyant cuttlefish and frogfish. Diver interests were most influenced by sex, age and dive experience. The extinction risk of six of the top ten species has not yet been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. On average, the species driving this multi-million dollar tourism industry had less than one paper published every two years over the past two decades. The lack of research and conservation effort toward these species is at odds with their economic and social importance. Considering their high economic tourism value and unknown vulnerability, there is an urgent need for more research on fauna from shallow soft sediment and other habitats important to tourism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-37
Number of pages8
JournalOcean and Coastal Management
Volume160
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2018

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