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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
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Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Researchers Propose Putting a Price on Whales
11 January 2012 4:08 pm
Few wild animals stoke higher passions than whales. Environmental groups spend millions each year campaigning against whaling, and some even jump into rubber boats to chase down Japanese whaling vessels. Now three researchers are proposing to resolve the conflict and lower the number of whale deaths by adopting a "cap and trade" system. But that idea is itself controversial.
In a comment in tomorrow's issue of Nature entitled "Conversation Science: A market approach to saving the whales," Christopher Costello and Steven Gaines of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Leah Gerber of Arizona State University, Tempe, sketch out a system that would give countries permits to catch a certain number of whales. The permits could then be traded among stakeholders so that conservation groups in one country, say, could purchase permits from the whalers in another country. The permits would be issued by the International Whaling Commission and capped so that populations are not endangered. "I'm convinced it would work," says Costello, who says he's received positive feedback from the whaling industry and environmental groups.
The researchers estimate that whaling generates about $31 million a year in profits, while environmental groups spend about $25 million campaigning against whaling. That investment would have a bigger payoff if used to buy permits from whalers, Costello and colleagues argue. The price tag could range from $13,000 for a minke whale to $85,000 for a fin whale, they calculate.
Martin Smith, an environmental economist at Duke University, says the trading system could have unintended negative consequences. If fewer whales are killed but the demand for whale meat stays the same, he says, then prices will rise -- and that could stimulate illegal whaling. "This issue needs to be thought through clearly," he says. Costello admits that policing the market for whale meat would be challenging, but not impossible.
Greenpeace is not a fan of the proposal. "The whole idea of a resumption of commercial whaling is abhorrent," says oceans campaigner Phil Kline. The environmental organization is trying to pressure whaling countries like Japan and Iceland to stop whaling entirely, something that a trading system might be hard-pressed to accomplish.