In 1982 the International Whaling Commission adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling. Yet the number of whales killed each year has been going up since then, reaching about 2,000 annually under a loophole in which countries may authorize the harvesting of whales for research. Activists spend about $25 million a year trying to stop or disrupt whaling.
In a January Nature article, three researchers suggest selling whales may be a more effective method for saving them. Environmental scientists Christopher Costello and Steven Gaines of University of California, Santa Barbara, and Leah R. Gerber of Arizona State University note that tradable quotas have improved fisheries and reduced air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide. They suggest that annual quotas for a sustainable harvest of whales be offered in open markets, where whalers and conservationists could bid on them. The authors estimate that it would cost $13,000 to buy the life of a minke whale and $85,000 for a fin whale.