Will a catch share for whales improve social welfare?

Authors

  • Martin D. Smith,

    1. Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Box 90328, Durham, North Carolina 27708 USA
    2. Department of Economics, Duke University, Box 90097, Durham, North Carolina 27708 USA
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  • Frank Asche,

    1. Department of Industrial Economics, University of Stavanger, 4036 Stavanger, Norway
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  • Lori S. Bennear,

    1. Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Box 90328, Durham, North Carolina 27708 USA
    2. Department of Economics, Duke University, Box 90097, Durham, North Carolina 27708 USA
    3. Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University, Rubenstein Hall, Durham, North Carolina 27708 USA
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  • Elizabeth Havice,

    1. Department of Geography, University of North Carolina, Saunders Hall, Campus Box 3220, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-3220 USA
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  • Andrew J. Read,

    1. Duke Marine Lab, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, 135 Duke Marine Lab Road, Beaufort, North Carolina 28516 USA
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  • Dale Squires

    1. NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, 8604 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, California 92037-1023 USA
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Abstract

We critique a proposal to use catch shares to manage transboundary wildlife resources with potentially high non-extractive values, and we focus on the case of whales. Because whales are impure public goods, a policy that fails to capture all nonmarket benefits (due to free riding) could lead to a suboptimal outcome. Even if free riding were overcome, whale shares would face four implementation challenges. First, a whale share could legitimize the international trade in whale meat and expand the whale meat market. Second, a legal whale trade creates monitoring and enforcement challenges similar to those of organizations that manage highly migratory species such as tuna. Third, a whale share could create a new political economy of management that changes incentives and increases costs for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to achieve the current level of conservation. Fourth, a whale share program creates new logistical challenges for quota definition and allocation regardless of whether the market for whale products expands or contracts. Each of these issues, if left unaddressed, could result in lower overall welfare for society than under the status quo.

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