How 40 Endangered Sea Eagles Bring in $3 Million a Year to Small Scottish Island

sea eagles economy photo

Photo via the BBC

Endangered sea eagles have been making a slow but distinct recovery in recent years. The awe-inspiring bird has been successfully breeding in the wild after 25 years of aid from conservationists. While this is certainly good news for the imperiled species, it's also proved to be quite a boon to the Scottish island of Mull, which is home to nearly half of Scotland's sea eagle population--thanks to interest in the eagles and the birds' recovery, Mull is raking in over $3 million annually in a flourishing tourist industry.This is an encouraging figure, because it provides an ideal model of conservation and tourism coexisting happily, and one where there's a distinct monetary benefit for successful conservation.

The BBC reports:

Wild-bred sea eagles are thriving on Mull with 20 pairs now nesting on the small Scottish island, it has emerged.

The Mull Eagle Watch Partnership said 10 chicks had fledged from seven nests during last year's breeding season.

It also said 6,000 people a year were visiting the island to see the eagles, which had boosted the local economy by £2m.

Sea Eagle photo

When people come to Mull, they stay visit a "viewing hide" on Scottish Forestry Commission land, for a fee. My understanding of the arrangement is that half of the money from the fee goes to the Forestry Commission, and half is given directly to the Mull community, through the Mull Eagle Watch program. From the BBC:

James Hilder, chief executive of the Mull & Iona Community Trust, said: "Mull Eagle Watch has given a great boost to the communities of Mull & Iona, as it allows the trust to distribute thousands of pounds to local youth groups, sports clubs, societies as well as contributing to other environmental and educational initiatives locally.
It is, in essence, an entire community that is dedicated to the preservation of a single species--and everyone, especially the sea eagles, reaps the rewards from successful conservation.

It's an interesting model, and one that seems to work mostly because the community is small and largely autonomous. Funds go to conservation and the community. Such a model wouldn't likely work at the moment in a place like Galapagos--the epitome of conservation and tourism challenging one another. Ecuador is poorer than Scotland and depends on money generated from tourism to bolster its mainland economy, and the tourism industry on Galapagos attracts too many migrant workers to sustainably balance the islands' equilibrium.

Still, the Mull model needs to be noted and studied going forward, as more species face extinction than ever before--and perhaps sometimes finding sustainable ways to capitalize on a species continued existence is the most feasible way of saving them.

More on Endangered Species
Humans Now Wiping Out Species at 1000 Times the Natural Rate
Should We Help Endangered Species Move?
The Everglades and Galapagos --Two Ecosystems Imperiled

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