Last modified: 16 June 2011
Image: Chris Gomersall
The economic benefits delivered by Mull’s white-tailed eagles have more than tripled in just five years, according to an independent study commissioned by the RSPB.
These stunning birds, which are part of an on-going re-introduction programme in Scotland, now bring at least £5 million into the Mull economy every year, up from £1.4 million in 2005, the study by the Progressive Partnership has revealed. The tourism they generate also supports 110 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs (up from 36), and £2.4 million of local income.
The figures come as the result of a survey carried out last summer, in which over 1,200 people were asked their reasons for travelling to Mull. Almost a quarter stated that the eagles were an important factor in their trip.
Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Enterprise and Tourism, said: 'Tourism is one of Scotland's strongest assets, making a vital contribution to the economy and carrying significant potential for future growth.
'Wildlife Tourism in particular has grown in recent years and continues to do so with £276 million being spent on these trips, 75% spent by domestic tourists, and supporting 2,763 full time jobs in the sector.
'I am encouraged by the number of people coming to see these magnificent birds, especially in Mull, and all the hard work being carried out by the RSPB as well as all those who have a role to play in protecting the species.'
'These economic impact figures are great news for Mull... The eagles have really captured the imagination of visitors'
Dave Sexton, RSPB Scotland’s Mull Officer said: 'This survey backs up previous studies looking at just how much wildlife tourism contributes to the Scottish economy; a strong argument for investing further in nature conservation projects.
'And of course, these figures say nothing about the additional benefits these projects can bring to our health and wellbeing, as well as the sheer exhilaration of simply watching these incredible birds soaring free.
'Living and working with predators like eagles also has its challenges and we should be grateful for the work of farmers and land managers who have an essential role in safeguarding them for the nation.'
According to VisitScotland, white-tailed eagles account for an estimated 50% of all enquiries at their information centre in Craignure during the summer months on Mull.
Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland, said: 'These economic impact figures are great news for Mull and no surprise to us at VisitScotland. The eagles have really captured the imagination of visitors and are a fantastic part of the island’s stunning wildlife and rich natural heritage and any visitor who is privileged enough to experience seeing them will undoubtedly have a memorable and unique holiday.”
Mull tourism operator Mike Story, and his family, run Achnadrish bed & breakfast and a local food mail order company, 'Made on Mull'. He said: 'As Vice Chair of Argyll and the Isles Strategic Tourism Partnership, I welcome this report and see not only the continued success of the white-tailed eagle partnership but also its year on year growth.
'Its importance to the Mull economy is substantial and the success is due in large part to cooperation on the ground between local people, land managers and public bodies.
'Wildlife tourism is one of the pillars on which Argyll and the Isles can position itself as a world-leading tourism destination and the white tailed eagle programme is a fantastic example of how our pristine rural environment can provide a unique and sustainable visitor experience.'
Mull Eagle Watch is run by a partnership of Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Mull & Iona Community Trust, Strathclyde Police and RSPB Scotland.
To find out more about the Mull white-tailed eagle project, you can visit www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/tracking/mulleagles or find regular updates throughout the day at SkyeandFrisa@Twitter.
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