The global potential for whale watching
Whaling as a commercial enterprise is now defunct, not least due to the moratorium placed on it by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) almost 20 years ago. However, two distinct groups, one in favor of 'sustainable' whaling and one completely opposed to any killing of whales, continue to argue at the IWC and other political arenas. Almost ignored in this debate is the current growth of the whale watching industry, a logical alternative use for whale populations. Based on ecological and socio-economic criteria, the potential for whale watching is estimated for maritime countries that do not currently engage in this industry. Results suggest that whale watching could generate an additional 413 million USD (2009) in yearly revenue, supporting 5,700 jobs. Together with current global estimates, this would bring the total potential for the whale watching industry to over 2.5 billion USD in yearly revenue and about 19,000 jobs around the world. These results are discussed from an economic and conservation policy perspective, with emphasis on potential benefits and limitations.