Politics

Sell the Whales

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In keeping with Katherine Mangu-Ward's recent look at the plight of the lobster, here's an interesting dilemma involving another popular ocean critter:

[North Atlantic right whales] are among the most endangered species on the planet, with only about 300 of them still alive. But a measure aimed at protecting them is snarled and stalled in bureaucracy. […]

That measure is a proposal from U.S. government scientists to require commercial ships to slow to 10 knots inside a 30-mile "bubble" near ports where and when these whales are migrating. […]

"We think that more animals are being killed than are being born, and there are a couple of main sources of human-caused mortality that we are trying to reduce," said Jim Lecky, director of the Office of Protected Resources at the National Marine Fisheries Service. […]

More than four years of NOAA research showed that speed kills whales. Above a speed of about 10 knots, a right whale's encounter with a large ship would probably be fatal. […]

Many in the shipping industry oppose the speed limit, saying it would be too costly. A federal study concluded that slowing the ships near the whales will cost shipping companies about $112 million, or less than 1 percent of the $340 billion East Coast shipping industry income."

The response of the shipping industry shows just how differently the two groups think:

The World Shipping Council, an industry group representing more than two dozen global shipping companies, filed documents with the U.S. federal government opposing the speed limits, saying the change would cause "significant economic costs."

The group even suggested that if large ships went faster through the whales' habitat, the chance of a collision would be lower.

"A quickly moving vessel will pass through the area quickly, and exposure will be small," the shipping council wrote in a document challenging the limits. "A slowly moving vessel will take longer to pass through the area, exposure will be greater, and the whale will have longer to surface or move in a way that increases jeopardy."

Possible solution: Sell the whales. The new (presumably collective) owners could charge shipping companies for damages done to their mammalian property. Demanding just enough to hurt the industry but not enough to cripple it would provide shipping companies with an incentive to slow-down while in the whale's habitats without bringing goverment penalties into the equation. In addition, the new owners of the whales would take on the responsibility of raising the necessary funds for tracking a pod, or even individual whales.

More reason ocean chatter.

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  1. Yeah that’s a good idea. Or how about this, I’m just spit-balling here, tell me what you think, we let the whales go extinct.

  2. Seems like we’re doing the whale population a favor by culling out the whales to slow or stupid to get out of the way of ships.

    This argument also applies to 15 MPH school speed zones.

  3. Prediction: the MSM will TOTALLY ignore this idea. Yeah, I know, too-easy.
    JMR

  4. Can’t we just take a Klingon Bird of Prey back in time and get some more whales?

    Bonus question: are some of the ships hitting the whales NUCLEAR WESSELS?

  5. Bonus question: are some of the ships hitting the whales NUCLEAR WESSELS?

    Possibly.

    The single biggest known source of whale strikes is U.S. Navy ships, which are more numerous and travel faster than commercial vessels.

  6. Unless the whales can be made to generate some sort of income, this wouldn’t really work, Mike. You sell me 500 right whales and the rights to a shipping corridor, and I’m just going to charge whatever brings me the most revenue from ships, which will probably have nothing to do with how many whales are getting killed. After all, the whales are worthless to me until they get nailed by a ship. If you’re looking for the free market solution, it’s letting the whales set the price, which is a little logistically difficult.

  7. Nice to see both sides using pseudo-mathematical arguments. I think we can safely assume that neither side has actually done any calculations to back their claims.

  8. So how exactly do they plan on rounding up all the whales to implant these devices? Are they going to issue a sonar press release?

    Oh, I know, they’ll use Dog the Bounty Hunter.

  9. Sell the whales.

    I’d buy that t-shirt.

  10. Seems like with a little more creativity they could come up with a way to protect the whales without the ships having to slow down. They wouldn’t even have to go with a libertopian solution — just attach navigational warning beacons to the whales.

  11. The smug, smirking tone of that “sell the whales” article isn’t gonna convince anyone outside the choir.

  12. Wow, the Montag plan to combat global cooling global warming climate change made it through the editors all the way to CNN and back to Mr. Riggs!

    But this whole “selling” something nobody owns is a bit off the plan. I blame bad editing.

    Don’t worry, a few years after the Montag renewable organic hydrocarbon plan goes into effect, no outsiders will see another dead whale again.

  13. Honestly, do the “industry spokesmen” who write these things think that they’re going to fool anybody?

    If the ships go faster, the whales will be safer, because each ship will be in the corrider for a shorter period of time.

    Sure, and if the care on my street went 60 instead of 25, our cats would be safer.

    Do they actually think there is anybody stupid enough to believe this, or do the PR flacks just feel like they have to produce some kind of work product to justify their paychecks?

  14. I clicked on the “sell the whales” link. It was hilarious.

  15. I agree. Note that all the animals humans own are generally doing well. Dogs, cats, pigs, sheep, cows, chickens, etc.

  16. Businesses would never, ever, mismanage their property and resources, especially in a short-sighted plan to make high short term profits. It wouldn’t be rational. That never happens.

  17. If “nobody” owns the polar bears whales, that means the government owns them. That should be self-evident, by now. And it would be immoral for the government to profit from a “publicly owned” resource. The problem is, like so many others, insoluble.

  18. The single biggest known source of whale strikes is U.S. Navy ships, which are more numerous and travel faster than commercial vessels.

    I call bullshit. More U.S. Naval ships than commercial ships? Says who? Doesn’t square with what I see on the open water. And while Navy ships are usually capable of cursing at high speed, they generally don’t.

  19. I remember a t-shirt at the local record store in the 70s that said:

    save the whales

    harpoon a fat chick

  20. “Note that all the animals humans own are generally doing well. Dogs, cats, pigs, sheep, cows, chickens, etc.”

    But what many people want are for wild animals to be preserved.

  21. “And while Navy ships are usually capable of cursing at high speed”

    Wow, I knew the sailors had some salty language, but the ships now too?

  22. Of course a great many endangered animals have little commercial value.

  23. 1% of their income? bullshit! they cross the entire ocean and then have to slow down for the last 30 miles. Even if time and fuel were their only overheads, that would be insane.

  24. Businesses would never, ever, mismanage their property and resources, especially in a short-sighted plan to make high short term profits. It wouldn’t be rational. That never happens.

    I wonder if I’d qualify for a mortgage to purchase one of the whales?

  25. I call bullshit. More U.S. Naval ships than commercial ships? Says who? Doesn’t square with what I see on the open water.

    says NOAA in this pdf

    They also caveat:

    It should be carefully noted that the relatively high incidence of Navy and Coast Guard collision reports may be largely a factor of standardized military and government reporting practice rather than an actual higher frequency of collisions relative to other ship types. These two federal agencies are actively involved in large whale protection programs and reporting struck or dead whales to the National Marine Fisheries Service is now a part of standard operating practices.

    And while Navy ships are usually capable of cursing at high speed, they generally don’t.

    I’ve been in the navy for close to fifteen years now, trust me we fucking god damn curse with great frequency and alacrity.

    (Which law was this?)

  26. I wonder if I’d qualify for a mortgage to purchase one of the whales?

    Probably. And when your whale gets fucking smacked by the hull of a ship, you can always get the government to bail you out.

  27. If we started using whales for oil, meat or whatever else they have, selling them would be worthwhile.

  28. From the industry perspective:

    A thirty mile bubble from land translates to a somewhat longer distance where speed is limited; for instance in NYC due to the geometry of NJ and Long Island.

    Most large commercial ships run most efficiently at speeds around 16-18 kts. Slowing down may cause more aggregate pollution and carbon emissions.

  29. And while Navy ships are usually capable of cursing at high speed

    RC’z Law Award Winner of the freakin’ month. Awesome, dude!

    If “nobody” owns the whales, that means the government owns them.

    Which government? These whales spend a lot of their time in the open ocean, outside of any government’s jurisdiction. If they’re not out in the blue water, they’re probably in multiple jurisdictions over the course of a year or two.

  30. Sort of OT, but ship-related and pretty cool:

    http://skysails.info/index.php?L=1

  31. joe, I saw something on those on (I think) a History Channel program. Definitely neat.

  32. Strangely, I found KMW’s article, far, far more compelling. More well constructed. And firmly presented.

  33. Have scientists (NOAA or otherwise) looked into the possibility of some sort of sonic device that might dissuade whales from getting too close to ships? Like piping boy band music into the water or something similarly obnoxious?

    Or is that too likely to foul up the sonar of naval subs, etc.? (Full disclosure: my technical understanding of how submarines operate is based almost entirely on having viewed The Hunt for Red October a couple of times on TNT.)

  34. Possible solution: Sell the whales.

    That solution seems to raise the issue of cetacean intelligence and self-awareness.

  35. B,

    Well, underwater noises like that might confuse the whales. I don’t know if this particular species of whales echolocates.

  36. Can’t we just put laser beams on their heads?

  37. TallDave | June 6, 2008, 1:00pm | #
    Can’t we just put laser beams on their heads?

    If these whales are under attack, they have the right to defend themselves with lasers.

  38. They completly ignored the problem killing the whales in each link: Dihydrogen Monoxide

    All of you anti-military types, please, spare us your conspiracy theories of the US Navy spreading DHMO in the water to kill the whales.

  39. So how exactly do they plan on rounding up all the whales to implant these devices?

    I don’t think you’d round all of them up. There are already oceanographers studying the whales, and they have their own reasons for wanting to be able to track them. When they encountered one, they’d implant a device.

  40. The smug, smirking tone of that “sell the whales” article isn’t gonna convince anyone outside the choir.

    I’m in the libertarian choir, and it ain’t convincing me.

  41. “Possible solution: Sell the whales. The new (presumably collective) owners could charge shipping companies for damages done to their mammalian property”

    Uh Huh.

    And the response of the shipping companies could be to say that if the whale is your property, then keep it on your own property and out of the way of my ships on the ocean.

    What legal principle would prove that the whale has an automatic “right of way” wherever it goes and it’s the responsibilty of every ship to stay out it’s way?

    If you let your dog run loose in the neighborhood and it runs out in the street in front of a car and gets hit, I doubt you’d get very far trying to sue the driver for hitting your dog.

  42. Guy,
    The 90s called, they want their joke back.

  43. Whale oil is not a joke, unless you think saving Planet Earth is all just a big laugh!

  44. I’m in the libertarian choir, and it ain’t convincing me.

    No you’re not! We kicked you out. Thats why you’re not convinced.

  45. Businesses would never, ever, mismanage their property and resources, especially in a short-sighted plan to make high short term profits. It wouldn’t be rational. That never happens.

    Of course, they do sometimes. So, do governments. So, the question to ask is whether private owners have a greater tendency to properly manage their property and resources.

  46. [shrill uber-Leftie voice]

    Of course, they do sometimes. So, do governments. So, the question to ask is whether private owners have a greater tendency to properly manage their property and resources.

    We need a government study and solution!!! If you do not agree you need to be institutionalized!!!

    [/shrill uber-Leftie voice]

  47. “[shrill uber-Leftie voice]”

    You are being redundant.

    There is no such thing as an uber-Leftie voice that ISN’T shrill.

  48. Businesses would never, ever, mismanage their property and resources, especially in a short-sighted plan to make high short term profits. It wouldn’t be rational. That never happens.

    Good thing you aren’t forced to invest in or interact with any companies in any shape or form, as opposed to the government.

  49. GM,

    [shrill uber-Leftie voice] shall now be known as [loud shrill uber-dooper-Progressive-Socialist-Leftie voice]

  50. Jordan,

    We are forced to invest in government? I thought it was recently changed to voluntary.

  51. Jordan,

    We are forced to invest in government? I thought it was recently changed to voluntary.

    Harry Reid told me so! Wesley Snipes could not be reached for comment.

  52. I remember during the public housing thread, someone told us that paying for that was not coercive either.

    Trying to remember who it possibly could have been . . .

  53. This is a market-based proposal which is exemplary, in that it is an example that shows why market-based proposals to save the environment don’t work. These whales have no market value and are thus worthless from the viewpoint of the market.

    Not that the proposal is completely useless, though: it is a nice excuse that allows Libertarians to shrug their shoulders and says “well, we presented an excellent solution, but it never got a hearing because of the anti-market bias of the Big Government-dominated media”.

    And then all is well, and Libertarians can get back to the important business of not giving a shit what happens to the whales. Case closed!

  54. These whales have no market value and are thus worthless from the viewpoint of the market.

    Ahum!

  55. These whales have no market value and are thus worthless from the viewpoint of the market.

    Yeah, all the time and money devoted to “Save the Whales” type causes is a figment of my imagination.

  56. Q. What is the best thing to feed whales?

    A. Jane Fonda

  57. These whales have no market value and are thus worthless from the viewpoint of the market.

    That must be why “whale-watching” excursions are free.

  58. That must be why “whale-watching” excursions are free.

    Is that free as in beer or free as in pr0n?

  59. Guy Montag calling someone shrill is like John Candy calling someone fat.

    Every Guy Montag post comment is like Jackson Pollack working in his own blood.

  60. “GM,

    [shrill uber-Leftie voice] shall now be known as [loud shrill uber-dooper-Progressive-Socialist-Leftie voice]”

    Well that’s pretty comprehensive – almost.

    You left out communist.

  61. Gilbert Martin,

    I decided to leave something implied, and he just responded right before you 🙂

  62. Im in yr hed, obessin yr thawts.

  63. I always knew joe was a lolcat.

  64. Anyone care to lay out the libertarian answer to overfishing?

  65. This is a market-based proposal which is exemplary, in that it is an example that shows why market-based proposals to save the environment don’t work. These whales have no market value and are thus worthless from the viewpoint of the market.

    Woh, woh, woh. I agree with you, for this particular case. But how do you jump from this one case to concluding market-based proposals don’t work in other cases? Seems like you really, really want to jump to that conclusion.

  66. Ohnoes! Go hied under th cowsh!

    They iz seed me!

  67. Anyone care to lay out the libertarian answer to overfishing?

    People would own particular areas of or shares in fishing grounds, or own the fish themselves.

  68. “Guy Montag calling someone shrill is like John Candy calling someone fat.”

    Well not exactly.

    John Candy is dead and can’t call anybody anything.

  69. John Candy is dead and can’t call anybody anything.

    But he can vote for Democratic candidates.


  70. That must be why “whale-watching” excursions are free.

    You want to compare the market value of whale-watching excursions to the market value of trans-oceanic shipping? Why not take that up with the World Shipping Council; maybe Big Whale Watching, Inc (TM) could compensate them for their losses incurred for not running their freighters at top speed.

  71. “But he can vote for Democratic candidates.”

    Indeed.

    And if he were both dead AND an illegal alien, he could vote twice.

  72. Anyone care to lay out the libertarian answer to overfishing?

    Self correcting problem.

    Next.

  73. Whales are already libertarians. No central government, widely recognized civil liberties (e.g., the right to make whale call anywhere), few criminal laws.

  74. Self correcting problem.

    I don’t know why people accuse us libertarians of having a cavalier attitude.

  75. ML,

    The Chevrolet Cavalier was a different self-correcting problem, that took a long time to go away.

  76. 99.9% of all species that have ever lived are now extinct. There are only 300 of these lumbering dinosaurs left. They are dying at a rate quicker than they breed. Can’t we just accept that this particular species’ time is up and move on? Extinction is natural. If you really loved nature you’d embrace it.

  77. Extinction is natural.

    Sure, it is. If you use a very broad definition of natural that includes over-fishing by humans.

  78. Yes, by that token, armed chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas could force us out, and that would be okay. Like some kind of planet of the primates or something.

  79. I don’t know why people accuse us libertarians of having a cavalier attitude.

    Mike Laursen wins the thread. All this back and forth about market-based solutions to species extinction : it just doesn’t matter in the end, does it? Next problem!

  80. Like some kind of planet of the primates or something.

    As long as the leave the Statue of Liberty alone so that time traveling astronauts can identify the planet, I’m cool with it.

  81. Why do you mention the Statue of Liberty? Why not the Jefferson Memorial?

  82. Please don’t tell me that you’ve only seen the remake.

  83. Are you crazy? I don’t recognize that Marky Marky crap. Besides, that was the Lincoln Memorial.

  84. I don’t recognize that Marky Marky crap.

    I apologize. You are a man of taste and honor.

  85. These whales spend a lot of their time in the open ocean, outside of any government’s jurisdiction.

    And in doing so, remain unprosecuted by any government for whatever heinous crimes they commit in international waters.

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