'Cap and trade' system proposed for commercial whaling

Posted by Kate Taylor

A group of academics has suggested a pragmatic, if radical, solution to the problem of continuing commercial whaling - putting a price on the animals.

The three point out that anti-whaling groups such as Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd and the World Wildlife Fund spend at least $25 million per year on attempting to end the practice.

Despite this, commercial whaling is actually growing, with the number of whales killed every year having doubled since the early 1990s, to about two thousand per year.

The answer, say Christopher Costello and Steve Gaines of the University of California, along with Leah Gerber of Arizona State University, is a market-based solution similar to carbon trading.

"We propose an alternative path forward that could break the deadlock: quotas that can be bought and sold, creating a market that would be economically, ecologically, and socially viable for whalers and whales alike," they say.

'Whale shares' would be 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, they suggest.

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.

"The fervent anti-whaler will be quick to argue you cannot and should not put a price on the life of a whale; a species should be protected irrespective of its economic value," they concede.

"But unless all nations can be convinced or forced to adopt this view, whaling will continue. By placing an appropriate price tag on the life of a whale, a whale conservation market provides an immediate and tangible way to save them."