A Market to Conserve

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Recently, several scientists proposed a market based solution to ensure the future of whales in nature. Tradable whale quotas, these scientists suggest, could reduce existing conflict and enhance cooperation.  Quota shares would be provided to member nations of the International Whaling Commission. Share holders could decide to maintain, use, trade, sell, or permanently retire their allocation. Similar to international fishing quotas (ITQs), the total allowable catch would be based on a scientifically determined sustainable harvest.

The proposal is no panacea but it does provide different incentives than the current leaky moratorium. Shareholders can decide if they value whales in the boat more or less than conservationists value them in the sea. Determining the allowable catch and enforcing catch limits is no easy task. An open market, however, can help improve cooperation and create better transparency than the often illicit trades that currently take place.

Many that are in opposition to whaling resist any commercial take. While a share market allows for that outcome--whale conservationists can purchase all the shares--it is unlikely. One great benefit of the proposal is that it will demonstrate the value of whales both dead and alive. Those opposed to whaling can purchase share quotas to hold or retire. Commercial whalers can purchase quotas for harvest. The policy would free resources for investment in whale management and conservation rather than demagoguery and the black market.

Originally posted at Environmental Trends.

Holly Fretwell is a Research Fellow at PERC and an adjunct instructor at Montana State University where she has taught  introductory economics, macroeconomics, natural resources and environmental economics. She works with the Foundation for Teaching Economics, giving workshops for  high school teachers to improve their skills in teaching and...
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