Page last updated at 13:42 GMT, Thursday, 7 May 2009 14:42 UK

Study to assess dolphin benefits

A bottlenose dolphin (picture: Sea Watch Foundation)
Bottlenose dolphins are found in waters off the east coast of Scotland

A study is to assess the economic value of Scotland's bottlenose dolphin population.

The largest single group of the animals is found in the Moray Firth where wildlife cruises regularly cater for tourists.

However, the survey will stretch as far south as the Tay and Forth estuaries where dolphin watching is developing.

The study is being co-ordinated by the Moray Firth Partnership along with Aberdeen University.

The data will be used to develop dolphin-related tourism projects that are economically and environmentally sustainable.

Conservationists believe there are about 130 bottlenose dolphins in the area.

Claudia Rowse, policy and advice manager with Scottish Natural Heritage, said: "We know that dolphins are important to the area but we have no way of quantifying that in economic terms.

"The study will also look at how to maximise economic opportunities such as enhancing the visitor experience, improving interpretation and linking land-based dolphin watching to the promotion of coastal walks and trails."

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