The authors explain that the concept of auctioning off annual whale-catch quotas was suggested as early as 1982 but was never implemented, perhaps, they suggest, because whalers would have had to purchase something they had always received for free. They add that a "whale-conservation market," would be different, with "whale shares" being allocated in sustainable numbers to all members of the International Whaling Commission. Recipients could then exercise them (by harvesting their quota), hold onto them for a year, or permanently retire them. The shares would be tradable in a carefully controlled global market.
In the two most extreme scenarios, whalers could end up purchasing all the shares and harvesting whales at the established sustainable level, or conservationists might purchase all the shares, so that no whales would be harvested.
"Because conservationists could bid for quotas, whalers could profit from them even without harvesting the animals," the professors say. And while they concede that "there are multiple challenges in getting such a scheme to work, including agreeing on sustainable quotas and on how shares should be allocated," they do not see those obstacles as insurmountable.
But would whalers settle for quotas? In fact, the authors say, whaling nations have previously proposed quotas, which would legitimize their harvest. Many anti-whaling groups, on the other hand, have had a fundamental problem with setting quotas for the same reason, feeling that quotas would appear to legitimize commercial whaling.
"If quotas are set properly,"
|Contact: Christopher Costello|
University of California - Santa Barbara