Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Right Kind of Conservation

The San Jose Mercury News reports that in an effort to reduce damage to sea life by commercial fishers, two environmental groups have "purchased six federal bottom trawling permits and four commercial trawling boats from fishermen based in Monterey and Morro Bay..." This is the first time that a private conservation group has purchased permits in Pacific waters.

Rod Fujita, a marine ecologist with Environmental Defense in Oakland, puts it plainly: There are too many boats chasing too few fish. People respond to economic incentives. The solution is not to blame or punish them but to provide incentives for stewardship, not exploitation.'' It's a delightful surprise to hear this from an environmental activist.

As Coase has written in the past, when property rights are defined and transaction costs are permissibly low, the efficient outcome will prevail. In this case, the environmentalists now have a healthier ocean and the fishing company is free of a low-profit area.

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