Bluefin tuna are swift, gigantic, tasty, and increasingly endangered.* Those last two items go together, of course, with tuna’s high market value encouraging over-exploitation of many populations.
But markets can also encourage creative efforts to preserve threatened species. Jason Kottke points to one example: bluefin farming in Japan. This 5-minute video raises a host of important questions, including the source of baby bluefin and the resource costs of their food. And, full warning, it doesn’t shy away from the bloody reality of bluefin harvesting:
On a closely related note, Felicity Barringer of the New York Times News Service writes about Utah’s market in hunting licenses for deer, elk, moose, and pronghorn.
The auction or sale of scarce licenses inevitably means that some will to well-heeled hunters, often from out-of-state, rather than typical residents. For some, that raises concerns about the marketplace intruding on what was once a natural resource held in public trust. On the other hand, by allocating some licenses to landowners who provide habitat, the program encourages conservation:
Here is how it works: The state has enticed ranchers with an allotment of vouchers for lucrative hunting licenses that they can sell for thousands of dollars as part of a private hunt on their land. Many used to complain bitterly to state officials about elk and other game eating forage meant for their cattle.
The vouchers for hunting licenses, handed out for more than 10 years now, give them ample economic incentive to nurture big game on their land and not get frustrated with ranching and sell their land to developers.
Both the video and the article are great fodder for a discussion of markets and wildlife conservation.
* Note for tuna enthusiasts: There are three species of bluefin (Atlantic, Pacific, and southern) that differ in size and degree of endangerment; see Wikipedia).