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Socio-cultural valuation of whale ecosystem services in Skjálfandi Bay, Iceland

The study examines the socio-cultural values of multiple ecosystem services (ES) sourced from whales in Skjálfandi Bay, North Iceland, with many beneficiaries living in and visiting the town of Húsavík. The study begins to address the research gap in non-monetary valuation of marine ecosystem services. Based on a multi-method approach, it elicits stakeholders’ perceptions of the contribution of whale ES to human wellbeing using stakeholder mapping, semi-structured interviews, observations, and socio-cultural preference surveys. The key whale ES identified by the local stakeholders were cultural, most frequently mentioned being recreation and education. The most commonly mentioned ES values were related to economic benefits from the whale watching industry. The preference survey reveals that regulating and maintenance ES were valued most highly with a mean score of 4.0 out of 5.0, cultural ES were second with a mean score of 3.5, and provisioning ES in the form of food and raw materials were valued the least with a mean of 0.75. Interview data also reveals some marine ES management challenges originating from intensified tourism, industrial development, and climate change. The results of the study have the potential to inform marine resource management in Iceland by including socio-cultural values associated with whale resources.

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