New report charts massive growth of whale watch industry in Latin America

Tuesday, 24 June, 2008
Santiago, Chile
A massive growth in whale watching in Latin America has seen income from ticket sales more than quadruple over the past 15 years, highlighting the economic value of the industry as an alternative to whaling.
According to a new report from WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Global Ocean, Latin America will host more than one million whale watch customers this year, if the current strong growth in the industry continues.
The report, The State of Whale Watching in Latin America, comes as more than 70 countries from around the world debate the future of whaling at the 60th meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Santiago, Chile.  
“This is a timely reminder of the potential for the whale watching industry to provide a sustainable and long lasting income not only in Latin America, but for hundreds of coastal communities around the world.  Responsible whale watching offers substantial, diverse community benefits compared to the narrowly focussed, out-of-touch whaling industry,” said Erich Hoyt, one of the report’s authors and WDCS senior research fellow.
Between 1998 and 2006, the number of countries offering whale watching trips in Latin America has expanded from 8 to 18, and the number of communities benefiting from it has risen from 56 to 91.  As most whale watching communities are outside the main cities and economic centers of Latin America, therefore whale watching is contributing to rural economic development.
During the same time period, the number of whale watchers (visits) increased to 885,679 from 243,892 with USD $79.4 million in direct expenditure (ticket prices) and $278.1 million in total expenditure.
Compared to overall tourism, since 1998, whale watching has grown three times as fast as world tourism and 4.7 times as fast as Latin American tourism.
Some 64 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises, 75% of the 86 known cetacean species are found around Latin America and most of them are the subject of one or more whale watch tours.
“This is a sustainable industry that benefits coastal communities socioeconomically, educationally and environmentally for years to come. It’s the responsibility of our governments to defend our right to whale watching versus whaling,” affirms Beatriz Bugeda, Director of IFAW Latin America.

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