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 Courtesy of Malinda Welte -
Tourism: a magic wand for Ocean defenders?
by Véronique JULLIEN

Greenpeace’s “Whale Tourism Pledge” finally secured the 100 000 signatures expected. It hopes that tourism and its potential revenues could eventually convince Iceland to stop whaling.

In mid-October Iceland resumed whaling, thus breaking a 20-years-old international moratorium banning commercial whaling. This moratorium had already been broken by Japan and Norway, but somehow it resisted their pressure and was renewed at the International Whaling Commission last July.

Greenpeace defends the environment in more than 40 countries across Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. At the end of 2003 it launched its "Whale Tourism Pledge": a moral promise by the pledgors to visit Iceland if the country stops whaling. The slogan is simple and direct: "Your travel plans can help Iceland choose between whaling or whale watching". The introduction to the pledge explains that each tourist generates an average revenue of $1,169 for Iceland, whereas whaling is said to bring no more than $ 4 million per year. Greenpeace hoped that 100,000 people would sign the pledge, but the pledge had been temporally shelved when Iceland reduced its whaling program in June 2004.
The Iceland Whale Tourism Pledge was re-launched when the country broke the moratorium last October,* and just ten days after, 100,000 signatures were already secured. Theoretically this could translate into a US$ 100 million bonanza for Iceland.

Greenpeace now believes that the popularity of the pledge makes it influential enough. The idea is to confront the Icelandic government with a simple fact: tourism is more lucrative than whaling. In other words, if you want to take advantage of the whales, don't kill them, show them. Tourists prefer to see living whales and learn about them rather than eat whale steaks (which few people actually really like).

Using tourism to defend endangered species or natural sites is not new. Eco-tourism has been helping to draw the public attention to major issues for years now: the coral reef in Australia, the Amazon forest, elephants in Thailand or in India.... Until Greenpeace's innovative action, tourism was a mere pedagogical tool, an activity used to help these causes on a local level. With its Iceland Whale Tourism Pledge Greenpeace goes one step further: it acknowledges and uses the economic weight of the tourist industry as an incentive on the governmental level. Whether it will actually work or not remains to be seen.

Sources: "Iceland Whales Pledge,"
"Stop Icelandic Whaling," (Greenpeace's website for the protection of oceans)
"Rocking the boat," The Economist 28 October 2006.
"Death on high seas," The Guardian 19 October 2006.
"Australia claims whaling victory," The Australian 18 June 2005
"What is ecotourism?," (website of an ecotourism travel agency in South America)
"L'Islande : un farouche pays baleinier, mais pour combien de temps encore?," (Greenpeace's French website), 16 September 2003.
* information given out by Greenpeace France on 20 November 2006.

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