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Cashing in on big fish from Shark Week to great white sightings

By Flickr user Hermanus Backpackers

Earlier this month, just in time for the ever-anticipated “Shark Week,” great whites began popping up along the Cape Cod shoreline in a town called Chatham.

The sight quickly turned the idyllic spot into its own up-close-and-personal shark encounter. The timing appeared perfect and eloquent; an entrance right on cue.

Sounds exciting doesn’t it? Well, that is until you start thinking like a local business owner.

What are the potential ramifications of having multiple Jaws look-alikes lurking during the busiest season of the year? Frightened tourists might equal less business.

But it turns out, in Chatham, great whites were an economic blessing.

The sharks sent the town into a buzz. People flooded to Chatham hoping to catch a glimpse of a big fish. As a result, business in the town boomed instead of dwindled. The local economy, it seems, got an unexpected boost.

In a recent story, a Boston Globe correspondent even asked the executive director of the local Chamber of Commerce if  ”Chatham might become a hub for shark-related tourism.” Sounds like some new business ventures might pop up if the great whites keep hanging around.

Chatham’s tale is just one example of the array of stories found inside the business of sharks. And there’s no better time than now to follow the fins for economic stories.

For example, the 2010 “Shark Week” brought in a record number of viewers to Discovery Channel, according to this story from WorldScreen.com. It was the biggest audience that’s ever tuned in for the special series – a big economic gain for the network.

Ironically, as viewers were wooed by the fish on television, another group was out at sea cashing in from the kill. This Time article details the business of producing shark-fin soup and the black market that lurks behind it.

And it’s not just the fins of the sharks that bring in big dollars.

A piece from ABC News points out that there are 101 ways to eat a dead shark and fisherman are doing their best to make a profit. Also, don’t forget about the aquariums, which count on these big fish to pack in visitors.

Of course these examples are not the only stories you can find behind the business of sharks. Follow the money from the ocean to land to find your own chunk to cover in the shark frenzy.

About the Author

Kelly is the Reynolds Center's Senior Online Producer. She has worked as a reporter for several newspapers, most recently The Arizona Republic, and has been an adjunct professor at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College and holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from West Virginia University. Kelly also was a fellow at The Poynter Institute and a contributing writer for "Cancer Stories: Lessons in Love, Loss & Hope."

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