ECONOMICS AND THE RESUMPTION OF COMMERCIAL WHALING
Conrad, Jon M.; Bjorndal, Trond
There is now strong scientific evidence that several species of baleen whale and possibly the sperm whale, have recovered to levels that would support commercial harvest. The stock of fin whales (Balaenoptera physatus) off the eastern coast of Iceland and the minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) in the Northeast Atlantic, off the coast of Japan and in the Southern Ocean are prime candidates for commercial harvest. Should commercial whaling be resumed? If so, what role should economics play in determining the level of harvest and management policies? A bioeconomic model for baleen whales is developed and applied to the stock of minke whales in the Northeast Atlantic. A delay-difference equation is used to model the population dynamics and an exponential production function is estimated relating harvest, to population size and the number of catcher vessels. If whaling is resumed, the optimal stock size and harvest may critically depend on the price-cost ratio and catcher productivity. We identify plausible combinations of price, cost and productivity where whaling is not optimal and the minke whale population in the Northeast Atlantic equilibrates at about 82,000 adult animals. Under a high price-cost ratio and high catcher productivity, the optimal stock ranges from 51,000 to 59,000 whales supporting a harvest of 1,600 to 1,750 by 90 to 115 catchers. The paper examines two economic arguments that might be advanced for prohibition of commercial whaling. The first is utilitarian in nature and the second is based on the extension of rights traditionally reserved for homo sapiens. The paper advocates a tolerant position, where individuals of different countries democratically choose whether they wish to allow or ban whaling and the import of whale products, with the proviso that no stock be threatened with extinction.
WP 1991-09 September 1991
Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University