Worth of a live whale

whe_william@flo.org
Mon, 23 May 1994 13:36:57

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Subject: Worth of a live whale
 
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Subj:	Whale Watching Worth More Than Whaling?
 
Date:         Mon, 23 May 1994 11:07:33 EDT
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From:         Erich Hoyt <100327.1067@CompuServe.COM>
Subject:      Whale Watching Worth More Than Whaling?
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MESSAGE from Erich Hoyt
TO MARMAM subscribers
23 May 1994
 
RE Whales Worth More Alive Than Dead? (Message posted by Michael Tobis)
 
As a consultant to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, I am the author
of the various reports on whale watching that the Reuters story was quoting.
Michael Tobis remarks that the economic value of whale watching is a weak
argument for conservation and dangerous, too, if whale watching declines in
popularity.
 
As usual, the newspaper article only tells a small part of the story. (And based
on that, his reaction is understandable.)  In fact, the value of whales is not
just the economic value, but the scientific and educational values, as well as
their intrinsic value as species.  Therefore, in New England, besides the solid,
quantifiable tourism revenues from whale-watching, there is the value of the
boats as a platform for research (very roughly estimated at about $875,000 US a
year, if the researchers had to rent them). There is the value of the almost 20
years of whale-watching data that was partly responsible for the designation of
the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary last year. And there is the value
of educating the several million people who have gone whale watching there over
the years-many of whom have become more interested in marine conservation as a
result and who solidly backed the sanctuary.
 
Of course, people tend to focus on quantifiable economic values, but some of the
other values, though more difficult to assess, are no less important.  We are
living in an era when the economic and other values of wildlife to local
communities are being considered as never before (See, for example, Holdgate, M.
1993. "Can Wildlife Pay for Itself?" IUCN Focus Series, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland
and Cambridge, UK, pp. 1-9; and Wilson, E.O. 1992. The Diversity of Life.
Harvard University Press.)
 
I think such economic and other arguments can and have to be made for certain
species on a pragmatic basis. It doesn't mean that the other species should be
simply "sacrificed". I'm currently writing a book on insects so I'm acutely
aware of their difficult-to-quantify value. But saving whale habitat, in fact,
is arguably a good pragmatic approach to ecosystem conservation because whale
habitats tend to cover large areas and effectively conserve many other lesser
known, smaller species.
 
Erich Hoyt
e-mail: 100327.1067@compuserve.com