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Saturday, 3 October 2009

Whale Watching as an Economy

So far the train of thought in regard to whaling leads towards profitability. It seems that today there is no profit to be had in whaling scientific or sustainable commercial whaling, were such a thing to exist. However, there's more than a little food for thought in the profitability of not hunting whales, but watching them.



For the IWC61 in Madeira the IFAW commissioned a report by Economists at Large and Associates that makes for some very interesting reading. The document is extremely comprehensive and a very lengthy read at 295 pages. But it's full of vital information about the profitability of whale watching. Much of the research efforts of the IWC regarding whale watching met the expected derision of Japan who opposed their efforts at every stage.
In 2009 the IWC is at a crossroads. It could revert to the mindset of 1946 and facilitate the continuation and expansion of commercial whaling, or it could genuinely become the organisation responsible for the “proper conservation of whale stocks”. Whale watching provides the lever that could drive the IWC in the right direction. IFAW has been privileged to contribute to that process over the years and we hope that that support will continue well into the future. For whale watching provides the means to change attitudes about whales.
Fight as they must, the whaling nations cannot argue with the figures. It's a stark reality and one which year after year appears to be swept under the rug. In 2008, 13 million people from 119 countries participated in whale watching. This produced $2.1 billion in expenditure – yes, that's a lot of zeros $21,000,000,000!!! And it's growing.

What's more astounding is this is also happening right in the heart of the whaling nations. In 2008 Japan's total expenditure from whale watching was $22 million and on average has grown steadily each year. In Iceland there was $16 million and in Norway and Greenland another $11 million.

Surely these are no trifling sums. The economies of the whaling communities are benefiting greatly from a sustainable source of income that they themselves are steadily depleting. You don't have to be a skilled economist to see that they are quite literally shooting the goose that lays the golden eggs.

It appears that whilst focussed on the possible goal of huge profits by strip mining the oceans of our whales, they seem to fail to understand the damage to the immediate steady income they are already benefitting from by not killing whales. Do they not see that when they have killed all of the whales that not only will there be nothing to watch, but there will be nothing to hunt? We'll see the collapse of two economies due to the short sightedness of one.

From a common sense point of view there appears to be a "banking" mentality to whaling, where there are there no considerations for the sustainability of profits. Just a glut of bonus today and no thought for tomorrow. Consequences all of us will have to bear.