Iconic bottlenose dolphins add £4 million to Scottish economy, new report shows

The income from tourism spending in Scotland due to the presence of the east coast bottlenose dolphin population is at least £4 million, according to a new survey report published today by the Moray Firth Partnership.

The report findings show that more than 200 jobs are generated in the tourism sector due to overnight trips undertaken by tourists to see the dolphins. Dolphin watching was a significant reason to visit for 52,200 overnight visitors to the east coast, and 17,100 of these visitors considered seeing dolphins to be the main reason for their trip.

The new report, ‘The Value of Tourism Expenditure related to the East Coast of Scotland Bottlenose Dolphin Population’, is formally launched today by Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment.

Mr Lochhead said: “Dolphins are much loved inhabitants of Scotland’s eastern waters and it is little wonder that many thousands of people plan especially to see them. But beyond their charm, they are also a very visible symbol of a healthy and sustainable marine environment.

“The Marine Scotland Act has been created to protect our wild species – like dolphins – while we also ensure that Scotland continues to benefit from the riches contained within our waters. The interests are many and diverse, but conscientious stewardship of this vast natural resource can only enrich us as a nation.

“While dolphins directly add to our tourist income, they are also a delightful symbol of this unique and special environment which we protect, develop and enjoy.”

The report findings are based on a survey of 529 visitors in east coast locations in 2009, and carried out by University of Aberdeen researchers based at the Aberdeen Centre for Environmental Sustainability (ACES). The bulk of dolphin visitors are concentrated on locations around the Moray Firth, but tourist journeys cover areas throughout Scotland. In the summer the majority of dolphin visitors are from outside Scotland, but Scottish visitors come more frequently for shorter dolphin viewing breaks at other times in the year.

This report complements the findings of the Scottish Government’s recent research report, 'The Economic Impact of Wildlife Tourism in Scotland' issued in June. This shows the net economic impact of all wildlife tourism in Scotland is around £65 million, supporting around 2,760 jobs. Around £15 million of this is estimated to relate to marine wildlife tourism, and a further £24 million to coastal tourism including shore-based watching activities. This highlights the importance of coastal and marine tourism to Scotland, and the significance of bottlenose dolphins to both these sectors.

East coast authorities and other key stakeholders involved in the report are meeting to consider the findings and to consider opportunities for developing joint initiatives across the range of the dolphin population, to help protect the bottlenose dolphins from disturbance, enhance the environment and benefit local communities and visitors. Whale and dolphin watching directly provides around 13,000 jobs around the world, and has been recognised as one of the most effective ways to benefit from the presence of marine mammals in a non-destructive way.

Copies of the report may be downloaded from the Moray Firth Partnership and other partner websites. See http://www.morayfirth-partnership.org/ or telephone 01463 225530 for more information.