Economic development options for island states: the case of whale-watching

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Moyle, BJ & Evans, M 2008, 'Economic development options for island states: the case of whale-watching', Shima: the International Journal of Research into Island Cultures, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 41-59.

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This paper explores the consequences of whale-watching tourism with reference to the Kingdom of Tonga. Whale-watching tourism has been proposed as a viable development option for small island states. This proposal is frequently linked to permanent cessation of what is, in many cases, traditional whale hunting. This article critiques some earlier work on the economic impact of whale-watching and explores the consequences of whale-watching using biometric models in an attempt to inform policy and debate concerning the economic benefits of switching from whale hunting to watching. Ecotourism generally, and whale-watching specifically, have some development risks and these risks are elaborated.

For small island states on the periphery of the whale-watching industry, the profitability of an exclusive whale-watching strategy is threatened by increased competition elsewhere. We contend that economic returns from whale resources can be maximised by retaining a whale hunting option for cases where resource populations rise above that necessary for ecological sustainability and tourism activities. By eliminating the prospects of a diversified use of whale stocks for the somewhat more uncertain gains from whale watching, small island states expose themselves to potential shocks. Such states have a lesser ability to absorb such shocks; hence the elimination of hunting options is an illadvised development route for humans.

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