Shark diving tourism is now worth more than $25 million a year to the national economy.
Swimming with whale sharks off Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia is the biggest drawcard, with visitors spending more than $11 million a year for the experience, a new study has found.
Other attractions include cage diving with great whites off Port Lincoln in South Australia, diving with grey nurse sharks off the coast of NSW and swimming with reef sharks on Osprey Reef in Queensland.
Tourists who took the plunge in Port Lincoln contributed $7.8 million to the regions economy and the study by Flinders University, the University of Western Australia, Southern Cross University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science argues the flow-on impact to other regional services is critical.
"We found 83 per cent of the white shark cage-divers would not have visited the Port Lincoln region and spent money there if a cage-diving opportunity had not been available," Flinders University Associate Professor Charlie Huveneers said.
Prof Huveneers said wildlife tourism was one of the fastest-growing of the sector but had to be tempered to ensure the environment was not impacted.
"This reiterates the importance of adequate management of these industries to ensure sustainable practices, so future generations have the opportunity to view and interact with sharks," he said.
The study surveyed 711 tourist divers over a one-year period and documented their expenditure, including accommodation, transport, living costs and other related activities.