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Mon May 18, 2020, 06:37 PM

Economists put a price tag on living whales in Brazil: $82 billion


by Elizabeth Claire Alberts on 18 May 2020



Each winter, southern right whales and humpback whales migrate to the waters off Brazil to feed on krill and phytoplankton, and to give birth to their young among the country’s rich coral reefs. These whales attract thousands of tourists, and their money, to Brazil.

A whale’s capacity to bring tourist dollars into Brazil, in addition to its ability to regulate the environment and enhance fisheries, is worth a lot, according to a group of economists. Now, they’ve put a figure on it: $82 billion.



A breaching humpback whale in front of Salvador de BahiaImage in Brazil.
Image by Enrico Marcovaldi / Projeto Baleia Jubarte


This calculation comes from a model developed by four economists: Ralph Chami and Sena Oztosun of the International Monetary Fund (IMF); Connel Fullenkamp of Duke University’s Economics Center for Teaching; and Thomas Cosimano of the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. In December 2019, they published a report in IMF’s Finance & Development stating that living whales have a high monetary value for the tourism dollars they bring into a country, as well as their ability to sequester carbon, and to give a boost to local fisheries by contributing to the food web chain.

When it comes to regulating the environment, whales act as giant “pumps” that suck in carbon, mainly from the phytoplankton they eat, and release fecal plumes rich in nutrients that help more phytoplankton grow, which, in turn, produce more oxygen. Over its lifetime, a large whale can sequester about 33 tons of CO2 on average, while a tree only stores about 48 pounds (22 kilograms) of CO2 each year, according to the report. When a whale dies, its body will sink to the bottom of the ocean, storing away carbon for centuries, which plays a central role in mitigating climate change. Since carbon has a value in today’s market, the economists were able to put a price tag on a whale’s carbon service.

More:
https://news.mongabay.com/2020/05/economists-put-a-price-tag-on-living-whales-in-brazil-82-billion/

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