Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Whales with golden eggs

My opinion piece published yesterday by the BBC ended with the following remark:

"The people of the island of Madeira, where the IWC is meeting this year, pride themselves on having ended their traditional whaling in the mid-1980s. Now, whale-watching contributes more to the local economy than whale hunting did, and this form of eco-tourism creates employment for former whale hunters and boatmen. The same could be true for Japan as well. If the IWC decides this week to continue the dialogue on the future of whale conservation, this annual meeting in Madeira may exhaust its agenda fairly quickly, waiting for Japan to come back with some serious proposals. If so, instead of going home early, it might be a good idea for delegates to pursue their conversations informally on board Madeira's whale watching boats, and see for themselves that there is no need to kill whales to make money".

When I wrote this last week, I did not know that the International Fund for Animl Welfare (IFAW) was going to publish this week a report on the economics of whale watching they'd commissioned to Economists At Large. The whale watching industry is worth US $ 2.1 Billion , according to the report. Not bad at all, though I suppose that like the rest of the tourism sector, it's going to be hit by the crisis this year.

The IWC meeting's second day has ended this evening here in Madeira, and I may have been right when I anticipated in my BBC op'ed that we may exhaust the agenda early this time. If so, we'll go and check out Friday these Bryde's whales we can see from the shore.

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