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Economic Study Slams Whale Watching Benefits

INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FOR THE CONSERVATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES
1015 Moorefield Hill Grove, SW
Vienna, Virginia 22180-6249
USA


MEDIA RELEASE
23 July 2001

Economic Study Slams Whale Watching Benefits

An economic study by New Zealand bioeconomist Dr Brendan Moyle and his Canadian colleague Dr Mike Evans has found that the benefits that can be obtained from participating in whale watching have been grossly over-stated by proponents.

The study, “A Bioeconomic and Socio-Economic Analysis of Whale-Watching, With Attention Given to Associated Direct and Indirect Costs”, was sponsored by the International Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources (IFCNR) and was tabled at the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee meeting in London this week. (A copy can be obtained from the World Council of Whalers website on www.worldcouncilofwhalers.com)

IFCNR President Stephen Boynton said: “South Pacific Island nations and communities should no longer accept at face value the information they have been given by environmental organisations, New Zealand and Australia that whale watching is the panacea for their economic ills.”

“The fact is the benefits have been grossly over-exaggerated, as this study shows, and Islands and communities would be placing themselves in high economic risk by strictly following their advice.”

The Moyle and Evans analysis says that establishing whale-watching operations outside of core whale-watching areas involves several risks, including competition resulting from expansion of whale-watching sites closer to core whale-watching areas. Environmental and social costs of whale watching are not properly incorporated into proponents’ analyses.

The study also says previous analyses have over-inflated the returns from whale watching through the use of inappropriate methodologies. Using “industry inputs” as “benefits rather than as costs” exacerbates the inflation.

Mr Boynton said that New Zealand and Australia push whale watching through the International Whaling Commission to steer world opinion away from supporting the resumption of sustainable whaling and to put pressure on whaling nations to stop a traditional cultural practice. “… the benefits of whale hunting are systematically under-estimated by using market prices as proxy for value, while ignoring the various social (including health) and cultural benefits that are found in whaling societies, quite apart from the commercial values of hunting,” the study says.

(more to come)

“Environmental organisations such as Greenpeace, Humane Society International and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, as well as the governments of New Zealand and Australia have consistently said whale watching is more lucrative than whaling,” Mr Boynton said. “They have also sold the benefits of whale watching as a means of economic revival to South Pacific Island nations.

“Whale watching has been promoted as an economic activity that, when combined with a ban on whale hunting, maximizes economic benefits to participating communities, but that is not the case,” he said.

At the April meeting of the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme in Apia, Samoa, the New Zealand and Australian governments actively pushed South Pacific Island nations to take up whale watching as an alternative to whale hunting and therefore support their proposed South Pacific whale sanctuary.

“This study shows that those benefits have been grossly over-exaggerated purely to push an ideological viewpoint,” Mr Boynton said.

“New Zealand and Australia have been almost negligent in their responsibilities to the South Pacific Island nations, which are already heavily dependent on New Zealand and Australian foreign aid donations. Whale watching is a new commercial activity that needs to be explored with care and not promoted as the economic panacea of the new millennium,” Mr Boynton said.

The study says that economic diversity is generally socially beneficial and can offer increased development benefits and community sustainability. “Therefore, it is only reasonable and just to objectively assess a variety of whale-use options in those regions where these highly-valued, renewable resources exist,” it says.

Mr Boynton said that exploring economic options to enhance small island economies should continue, but not at the expense those participating nations.

The International Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources is a non-profit, public education organization with the objective of promoting understanding of the conservation benefits resulting from the sustainable use of renewable resources.

NOTE: A full copy of the Moyle/Evans Report can be found on www.worldcouncilofwhalers.com


For more information, contact Stephen Boynton at the Novotel West London, Hammersmith International Centre, Ph. 0044 208 741 1555


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