|In California, Tradeoff Between Fishing Livelihood and Fish Survival is Hot Topic|
|Topic||Environment and the Economy|
|Key Words||porpoise, fishing net, fishing ban, Mexico, California,|
|News Story||The Vaquita, a porpoise that lives in the ocean waters between California and Mexico is facing extinction from fishermen's nets. Environmental groups want to help, but local fishermen don't want to see the end of their livelihood.
Biologists estimate that only about 400 Vaquita exist, and that number is very tenuous, since females only have one calf every two years. Environmentalists argue that the vaquita are dying because they are being trapped in nets designed to catch other fish and shrimp. This has happened before; in 1993, the Mexican government declared a portion of the waters off-limits to fishing with nets. Environmentalists are calling for a greater ban on fishing with nets, wider than the current 673 mile sanctuary for the Vaquita.
But rather than leaving the fishers out in the cold, activists suggest a buyout. A $50 million trust fund could be set up to provide payments to the fishers so that they may continue to live, and find employment elsewhere outside of fishing. At this point, tourism exists in this part of California and Mexico, but it is not a significant industry. This is an application of the famous Coase Theorem, which argued that such payments could help compensate for lost activity: in this case, environmental activists are compensating fishers for their lost income from fishing.
The porpoises live and eat at roughly the point where the Colorado River flows out into the ocean. Some fishers point to the damming of the Colorado River further north as the reason behind the death of the porpoises, as the reduced river water reduces the amount of food that comes through for the porpoises.
But that doesn't change the fact that the fishers will have to change their lifestyle to which they've become accustomed.
|Source||McKinley, James C, Jr. "Vaquita Porpoise, and a Way of Life, Face Extinction." The New York Times. 13 February 2007.|
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