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Environmentalists push for more California whale watching

June 26, 2009 |  5:03 am

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Is whale-watching a recreational activity or a form of protest against commercial whaling? Environmentalists say it can be both.

Whale-watching generates $82 million a year in California alone, according to a new report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. The profitability of whale-watching provides ammo in the philosophical battle against whale hunting countries such as Japan, said Patrick Ramage, IFAW Whale Program Director.

"We should be shooting whales with cameras, not harpoons," Ramage said. "Clearly, living whales in their environment are worth a lot more to us than they are dead.

In California, more than 1.3 million people went on whale- or dolphin-watching expeditions in 2008, according to the report. On the sale of tickets for whale-watching boats alone, California generates more than $14 million a year. The number rises to $82 million when IFAW adds in expenses such as hotel stays and food. Whale-watching expeditions now sally forth from shores in 119 countries worldwide, employing 13,500 people, Ramage said.

Read the full story at Greenspace, The Times' environmental blog.

-- Amy Littlefield

Photo: A blue whale swims through Southern California waters. Credit: Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times

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