Wildlife as Recreation - Whale Watching
million whales people figure
Whale watching has become increasingly popular in recent years, contributing to coastal economies worldwide. (See Figure 11.10.) In 1995 the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, based in Bath, England, estimated the industry's value at $504 million. In August 2000 the International Fund for Animal Welfare reported that the industry had grown to $1.049 billion by 1998. It also reported that over 9 million people in 87 countries went on whale-watching expeditions in 1998—an increase of over 3.5 million people since 1994 and more than double the figure of 4 million people in 1991. According to the report, the number of whale watchers increased by an average of more than 12 percent each year during the late 1990s. In 1998 nearly 48 percent of all whale watching occurred in the United States, with an estimated 4.3 million people participating.
A few American cities—Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Lahaina, Hawaii, in particular—reap significant economic benefits from whale watching. Countries such as Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Iceland, and Mexico have also developed lucrative whale-watching industries. Smaller nations, including St. Lucia, Namibia, Oman, and the Solomon Islands, also run profitable whale-watching operations. By 1998 whale-watching programs featured not only the most popular species—humpback whales, fin whales, minke whales, and pilot whales—but eighty-three additional cetaceans, including orcas, or killer whales, and highly endangered northern right whales. The California gray whale, recently removed from the Endangered Species List, is the star of the whale-watching industry on the U.S. West Coast. In addition, commercial whale-watching vessels frequently serve as forums for educational outreach and scientific research.