The conservation of wildlife is one of the most pressing issues in the current times, but wildlife conservation economic values have often been largely ignored due to an absence of market prices, as setting an economic value on biodiversity or whole ecosystems can be challenging. Nevertheless, valuing wildlife can be of great significance to improve decision-making in the conservation field, as it can provide a complementary perspective based on economic principles. Whale-watching provides an opportunity for the economic valuation of wildlife. Specifically, it offers a framework in which the economic revenue allows the economic valuation of the targeted cetaceans to be estimated through the direct and indirect expenditure of the tourists who purchase whale-watching tours. Here, we performed an economic analysis based on population abundances of the three main species targeted by the whale-watching companies in the Strait of Gibraltar (Spain): long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas), common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) and killer whales (Orcinus orca). These species generated a total annual income of €4,089,056, €1,876,833, and €505,389, respectively, and each individual would generate an average of €14,048, €951, and €36,099 each year, respectively. Incorporating life expectancy, this corresponded to a total population value of €112,426,185, €16,685,147, and €19,171,107, respectively, over their lifetime. These values provide an idea of the potential contribution of cetaceans to the local economy but only represent their non-consumptive value based on tourism. Our results reinforce the idea that a sustainable, high-quality whale-watching culture, under ACCOBAMS High-Quality Whale-Watching requirements, should be promoted to ensure a sustainable industry, stable economic income and the viability of cetacean populations in the Strait of Gibraltar.
Source: Ouled-Cheikh J., Giménez J., Verborgh P., Jiménez-Torres C., Gauffier P., Esteban R., de Stephanis R. 2023. The non-consumptive economic value of wildlife: the case of three cetacean species. Sci. Mar. 87(4): e077. https://doi.org/10.3989/