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Diving tourism in Mexico – Economic and conservation importance

Highlights•The diving industry is growing worldwide, but it has little political voice in marine spatial planning and resource use.•In Mexico, diving generates between USD 455–725 million annually and is as economically important as the fisheries sector (USD 700 million).•When diving sites are in a No-Take Marine Protected Areas are more popular and in turn generates more revenues, but few of them enjoy this protection status (only 6.74%).•Countries can create profitable alternative livelihoods through diving ecotourism, stimulating a sustainable use of marine resources.AbstractGlobal coastal environments are highly vulnerable to degradation due to anthropogenic pressures as they host close to half of the world’s population in addition to having rich marine and terrestrial biodiversity. Worldwide degradation of coastal environments causes marine biodiversity to become an increasingly scarce resource. Consequently, locations with rich marine biodiversity have become attractive destinations for non-extractive activities such as diving tourism. For instance, since the invention of SCUBA in 1942, diving tourism has evolved from a niche activity to a thriving industry that lures practitioners with the promise of experiencing pristine wildlife encounters. Despite the number and popularity of diving destinations in Mexico, no study has previously estimated the economic importance of this industry for the Mexican case. This study calculates for the first time the gross and net revenues generated by the Mexican diving industry. We first created the most comprehensive and up-to-date list of diving sites in Mexico. Secondly, via a face-to-face survey, we gathered data on revenues and operation costs from diving operators. The resulting dataset includes 864 diving sites that together generate gross revenues ranging from (2019) USD 455 million and USD 725 million annually which are comparable to those generated by the artisanal and industrial Mexican fisheries together. Mexico simultaneously has high untapped ecotourism potential and the need for a sustainable strategy that delivers growth in both the economy and environmental conservation. Therefore, Mexico is in a position to become a beacon for community-led management through ecotourism, stimulating a sustainable use of marine resources.

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