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Northern Ireland's wildlife helps our economy

Last modified: 03 October 2011

RSPB volunteer helping visitors to Rathlin Island

A report launched by the RSPB today further confirms the importance of conservation and its related activities to our local and national economy. It was also revealed that in a related report, conservation and wildlife related activities on Rathlin Island accounted for 9.3 full time equivalent jobs.  

Titled Natural Foundations: Conservation and Local Employment in the UK, highlights of findings from the report include the confirmation that “modern conservation is also big business”. 

“In addition to directly delivering wellbeing benefits though ecosystem services, preserving the natural environment provides significant benefits to income and employment at local and national levels,” it says. “Conservation work stimulates activity within a variety of economic sectors such as agriculture, construction and tourism, as well as providing a diverse range of direct employment opportunities.” 

The report also states that “spending by visitors on trips to nature reserves and green spaces is worth billions of pounds each year to local and national economies each year. This type of economic stimulus can be of particular benefit to those areas (e.g. rural or coastal) with an often otherwise narrow scope for employment opportunities. Nature tourism is also going from strength to strength in the UK, with increases in visits to RSPB reserves and the natural environment far out-performing current trends in general tourism.” 

Some interesting headline figures are:

·         RSPB reserves represent significant and diverse sources of employment and income in their surrounding economies. The UK reserve network attracted £66 million to local communities in 2009, supporting 1,872 FTE local jobs.

·         These benefits are more often than not located in more remote, rural, or coastal areas, where economic opportunities tend to be fewer and less diverse. 

·         Since 2002, the local employment impacts of the RSPB UK reserve network have increased by 87%, and local expenditure supported has increased 235%. 

Several case studies were cited, including the effect of the RSPB Seabird Centre on Rathlin Island. According to the report, while the direct conservation work itself provided nearly 3 full time equivalent jobs, visitors to the reserve generated a significant proportion of the island’s summer spend. 

These include: 

·         Total spend by visitors to the reserve was around £920,000.

·         ¾ Total spend attributable directly to the reserve was around £260,000.

·         ¾ Local spend attributable directly to the reserve was around £230,000.

·         5.27 FTE jobs supported in local area by tourism to the reserve.

·         ¾ £113,704 of local income supported by visitor spend. 

The conclusion of the report based on the effect of the reserve on the island was that, “In 2009, the reserve brought £230,000 of visitor spend to the Island, supporting 5.3 FTE jobs in tourism related businesses, 3.3 of which were specifically due to the presence of seabirds. 

Gregory Woulahan, RSPB’s Reserve Manager, added, “All our work is directed to ensure that we safeguard the future of our wildlife, however it is also extremely gratifying to have what we have always known confirmed; namely that the work on our Rathlin reserve also contributes greatly to ensuring a sustainable population on Northern Ireland’s only inhabited island. According to a report drawn up by an economist in July 2010 that looked at all the income generated by the RSPB Reserve and the RSPB Seabird Centre, both provided 9.3 full time equivalent jobs. 

“This demonstrates the need to continue to protect the seas and wildlife that relies on coastal waters around Rathlin, as well as to continue working hard to ensure that the land is in excellent condition for birds like chough, corncrake, lapwing and curlew.” 

For a full copy of the RSPB report Natural Foundations: Conservation and Local Employment in the UK (2011) go to To get a copy of the detailed report on Rathlin Island, call the RSPB on 02890491547.

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