The Million-Dollar Shark

| Mon May 2, 2011 7:00 PM EDT

Sitting in the Pacific Ocean near the Philippines, the island nation of Palau doesn't have much land. It is, however, surrounded by warm waters that make it a tropical getaway for tourists. One of its attractions is sharks, and a recent study shows that a single reef shark can generate nearly $2 million for the country during its lifetime. At a time when shark populations are very threatened due to overfishing and a renewed hunger for shark-fin soup, Palau has chosen to make its waters a shark sanctuary. And for good reason too: the new study estimates that shark-diving brings $18 million to Palau each year, 8% of the GDP. If killed and sold for meat and parts, a shark would only get Palau fishermen around $1000 each. It looks like sharks are worth far more to Palau alive than they are dead, from an economy-sustaining point of view as well as an environmental one. You can see a few of Palau's tourism stars in the video below.