Sunday, October 31, 2010

Discussion Question 9 (Tools) comments due Nov 2nd

Traditional economists have argued that the marketplace will determine species protection. By this they mean that exploited species will be reduced only to the point where extraction costs equal revenue. It also implies that by giving economic value to species it is more likely that people and governments will protect them. Government regulation is seen as an unnecessary intrusion. Think of positive and negative aspects of this free market approach to conservation.


Rebecca Girton said...

A free market approach to conservation of endangered species could have dramatic, detrimental consequences. The main reason a species is threatened with extinction is due to habitat destruction. If there is no official conservation regulations and monitoring there will be nothing to stop landowners from selling or from destroying vast quantities of land for economical gain. In the eyes of a profit-seeking landowner, without government regulations there is no incentive in declaring an endangered species within their land - in fact it would do the complete opposite, landowners would risk loosing their land or plans for development. Therefore, there needs to be regulations set up with economical enticements, such as setting values for endangered species, and therefore land-owners would become more forth coming when declaring the presence of an endangered species within their land.
The anthropogenic allee effect states that humans’ demand for rarity causes the market price of a declining species to exceed the escalating costs of finding and harvesting it. Therefore an endangered population will be pushed to extinction because of the rarity status placed on it by humans. Humans induce this anthropogenic allee effect for a variety of reason such as collections, trophy hunting and luxury items. The paper ‘Rarity, trophy hunting and ungulates’ focuses purely on how the rarity of a species plays a major role in determining its value among hunters. The size and shape of a trophy both contribute its value however a species rarity is also a strong determinant of its market price. This high market price is driven by the supply and demand in economic markets, as people are genuinely attracted to rare species. In this context, a free market approach towards trophy hunting would allow for the over-exploitation of endangered species. However, with enforced regulations and a high market price for a rare species, the sport of hunting could be beneficial in its conservation. If hunters pay a high price for a rare species, they could thereby provide a large amount of money for its preservation.
In contrast, commercial markets do favour the free market approach to conservation. As a population becomes rarer it is increasingly costly to find, harvest and exploit them. With no economical gain, commercial markets switch their attention to larger population of alternative species. This is most obvious in the fishing industry where overexploitation had lead to the dramatic decline in tuna, swordfish and cod, and to the promotion of common species such as Alaskan pollok. Yet, will the consumer chose to switch their food choice? Consumers rule the market and without a demand for the alternative option it is unlikely that overexploitation of fish stock will stop.
‘Catch-switching’ can also have damaging consequences if fishermen begin to fish down the food web. With the overexploitation of predators, smaller fish and invertebrates lower down the trophic level become more abundant. If these species are then overharvested there is little chance for the predator stock to replenish. This could cause the collapse of the whole ecosystem.
In conclusion a free market approach to conservation will not eliminate the ‘self-interest’ characteristic. There is so much emphasis on economical gain that conservation takes a back seat in many peoples values. It may be a minority of people who share this belief, however with critically endangered species at risk there needs to be controls set in place to ensure their protection.

CITATION: Palazy, L., Bonenfant, C., Gaillard, J.M. & Courchamp, F. (2012). Rarity, trophy hunting and ungulates. Anim. Conserv. 15, 4–11.

Mario said...

Driving exploited species to low population sizes so that they have a higher economic value seems like a terrible idea considering the fact that smaller populations have a greater chance of going extinct. As a population gets smaller, preservation and reestablishment of a population becomes increasingly more difficult. That said, I believe that applying an economic value to endangered species would help preserve the areas they occupy since they would be a great asset to public or privately own land. However, government does need to step in to regulate considering the fact that rarities are high in demand among people and there are those who are willing to pay a lot for trophy hunting or expensive cuisine regardless of the effects this has on already low population sizes.

Mario Perez

Tim Stuart said...

On one hand, the free market approach does put a set value on a creature. Establishing a solid economic metric does establish a concrete foundation for plans to be built upon. Even if it seems a bit "mercenary" by ecological standards, a dollar sign can be an important factor in social and political considerations. Therefore, adding a market cost to a species' overall consideration can be advantageous from a preservation standpoint.
Additionally, having a market value can help to alleviate some factors inherent to human stresses. A creature that is harvested due to its economic value will usually be subject to reduced harvests once profitable collection is no longer possible. Though a species may be significantly reduced by this point, there is some force preventing it from facing complete extinction. This can be a double edged sword however. Should a creature exist outside of commercial markets, such as for a game or trophy animal, the decrease in population can actually lead to an increase in harvest. In this case, the market value of the creature becomes a disadvantage and can ultimately lead to the demise of the organism in question.
Also deleterious for single species market valuation is the likelihood that ecosystem interactions will not factor into it's "price tag." Regulation and protection would focus on the species of value, but the species that support them might face a depreciated volume of support due to their lesser or inconsequential market value. In this case, the potential regulations governing high market value creatures might not extend far enough along the web to adequately protect them. If supporting populations and environments are afforded no market value and thusly no regulation, the valuable species might decline regardless of the immediate conservation policies concerning them. The free market approach may not be comprehensive enough, purely economic concerns must be balanced against a more diffuse ecologically oriented approach.