New research into the whale-watching industry is confirming what we've known all along--that the world's largest mammal is worth more alive than it is dead. Sure, there may be a dwindling number of folks salivating at the thought of whale, thinking on making a meal of blubbery steak, but the booming whale-watching industry is shown to be the more lucrative business. In fact, whales have been such an attraction around the world that just last year some 13 million tourists paid to see them, turning whale-watching into a $2.1 billion industry--plus no one has to be eaten.This report, published in the journal Marine Policy, should come as welcome news to whales and whale-lovers alike, particularly on the heels of the International Whaling Commission's decision to basically postpone its decision on the future of commercial whaling. The prospect of banning the practice remains a contentious one, especially among one of the world's most prolific whaling nations, Japan--though it was uncovered recently that the country had managed to buy some support from smaller states by offering money and women as bribes.
While the thought of hunting whales has long seemed flawed from a moralistic sense, the report reveals that the practice doesn't make much business-sense either. The demand for whale-meat has dropped, even in Norway where the practice is still somewhat popular. The whale-watching industry, on the other hand, has seen a jump in popularity, bringing in over $2 billion worldwide last year, a trend which is expected to continue.
Rashid Sumaila, one of the study's authors, points out that the whale-watching industry could also be a boon to developing countries in regions where tourism wouldn't normally thrive, saying that last year some 13,000 people making a living while whales got to stay alive. "This shows that we can have our whales and still benefit from them, without killing them," she told the AFP. "[Whale-watching] can be launched with little initial investment and carried out by local fishers who are already familiar with the area."
The trend of preferring watching whales to eating them is indeed a remarkable transition from decades past. Not only are we just a bit more mindful of where our food is coming from, but we're paying more to see some animals alive and free than we are to have them on our plate.