My research is an economic valuation of marine wildlife on Peninsula Valdés in Patagonia, Argentina. The study analyzes tourists’ travel costs to the Peninsula and willingness to pay to see different marine mammals. The results of this survey will serve to better understand the recreational value of this site and the relative recreational value of five different marine mammals, including the Southern Right Whale. From June until mid-August, I lived in Puerto Madryn, Argentina and conducted surveys, in English and in Spanish, in this city and in the whale watching port, Puerto Piramides. The objective is to collect 500 – 750 surveys representative of tourists who visit during the whale-watching season, June through December.
To reach this objective, I trained four local students at the Centro Nacional Patagónico (CENPAT), a regional research institution, to conduct surveys. I received logistical support from Bottazzi Whale Watch, a family owned business, to travel to Puerto Piramides. Puerto Piramides is a small town with a high concentration of tourists, making it easier to conduct surveys. Thanks to local support, I was able to double the number of surveys I could complete in a month. I presented the goals and design of my survey to CENPAT, the Administration of Peninsula Valdes, the Department of Economics at the Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia San Juan Bosco, and to tourism operators in Puerto Piramides.