Skepticism about Loch Ness monster’s existence could threaten tourism in Scotland.
There have only been two reports of sightings this year, compared to three in 2006 and much lower than a decade ago, when the annual number sightings was consistently in the double digits, The Times newspaper said Saturday.
"It's becoming a potential crisis," said Mikko Takala, 39, a founding member of the Loch Ness Monster Fan Club who runs four webcams on the lake's north shore.
Scottish Tourism officials were not immediately available to comment.
Loch Ness - the largest and deepest inland expanse of water in Britain - is surrounded by myth and mystery. About 750 feet (230 meters) to the bottom, the loch - the Scottish word for "lake" - is deeper than the North Sea.
There have been more than 4,000 purported sightings of a creature - affectionately dubbed "Nessie" - since a surgeon vacationing at the lake in the 1930s released a photo allegedly capturing the legendary monster on film.
Since then, Nessie has been a key tourism draw, bringing an estimated 6 million pounds (EUR8.6 million, US$3 million) a year into the Scottish Highlands, according to The Times.
The faithful have speculated whether Nessie is a completely unknown species; a sturgeon, even though they have not been native to Scotland's waters for many years; or even a last surviving dinosaur.
In the age of digital cameras, webcams and video recorders, it is surprising that the number of reported sightings is falling.
Adrian Shine, 58, a naturalist who has investigated the mystery of the monster for 20 years, thinks the trend shows the world has become more skeptical.
"I think we live in a more pragmatic age, and that people are becoming more aware of the sort of illusions that can occur on water," he said.
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