Monday, January 26, 2009

Eating wild turtles...

In their oped railing against the decline in turtle population due to their commercial value, the NYTimes oped board inadvertently says it best, "but as long as the appetite for turtles — and traditional medicines derived from them — persists, we fear it will be hard to curtail such a profitable and disastrous trade."

Exactly, so why not embrace the market forces?! I have an unusual affinity for this topic because I recently wrote a fundraising letter about conservation through commerce. If you can assign property rights and reduce or eliminate the black market for endangered species goods, then you can actually increase the population of the animals in question.

Here's a slightly redacted excerpt of the solicitation letter I wrote:

[Our founder] was excited by the potential of farming sea turtles both for profit as well as for conservation.

It turns out that turtle steak has more protein, less fat, and fewer calories than either beef or chicken. Turtle hides are also a good source of leather and the shells can be used in commercial products like art and furniture. What an entrepreneurial opportunity!

Poaching, coupled with development encroachment on the turtle’s habitat (they nest on sandy beaches), however, threatened future generations of sea turtles. [Our founder] along with several other clever fellows realized they could relieve pressure on turtles in the wild if they find a way to raise them under farm conditions.

They studied the lifecycle of turtles to learn how to create optimal conditions to raise them. They became “turtle experts” in all aspects related to their growth and development. Their efforts led to the creation of Mariculture, Inc., a remarkable blend of conservation through commerce. Before it was even fashionable, [they were] good environmental stewards!

The same property rights and incentives ideas that [our organization] applies to public policy apply as well to turtle farming -- It’s in the best interest of turtle farmers to ensure the long-term existence and thriving of turtles or else they would go out of business.

Unfortunately, this message was lost on the environmental special interest groups who destroyed the market for turtles by banning turtle products from being sold in the U.S. and in so doing they condemned the wild turtle to a tenuous existence being hunted all and sundry in the commons.

[Our founder] was saddened at the many losses that ensued. The turtle farm relieved poaching because it offered a steady source of turtle products. (He required buyers to sign a contract, agreeing to refrain from poaching if they wanted access to his products.) Yet, environmental politics destroyed this opportunity to protect the wild turtle populations.

1 comment:

Timothy said...

Mmmmmmmm, turtle steak... I want some!