NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Whale Watching More Valuable Than Hunting

August 21, 2001

Whale watching has mushroomed in recent years into a billion dollar tourist industry that far outweighs the value of whale hunting, according to a report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

  • During the 1990s, the number of people going on whale-watching tours nearly tripled, hitting 10 million to 11 million in 2000.
  • Whale watchers paid more than $300 million for tour tickets last year and far more for land-based costs surrounding the tours, the report says.
  • The industry is growing 12 percent a year, triple the rate of international tourism in general.
  • In contrast, the wholesale value of whale meat sold last year in Japan, one of the last major whaling nations, was put at $32 million.

By using a tracking network of underwater microphones and human spotters on land, air and sea, tour companies say they have a 98 percent success rate for whale-watching expeditions off the Northwest Pacific coast.

Worldwide, whale-watching tours are available in 495 cities, say researchers.

Source: James Brooke, "The Watch for Whales Is Outpacing the Hunts," New York Times, August 19, 2001; Erich Hoyt, "WHALE WATCHING 2001: Worldwide Tourism Numbers, Expenditures, And Expanding Socioeconomic Benefits," International Fund for Animal Welfare, August 2001.  


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