Direct Payments for Conservation

The North Atlantic Salmon Foundation is a success story. It works by buying up fishing quotas, individual transferable quotas, or ITQs, from commercial fishers. The wild salmon in Iceland, Norway and Scotland has greatly benefited from this scheme.

Direct payment for conservation is an attractive proposition for anyone who has observed international agencies or NGOs in action. A lot of money is spent by international experts on strategic plans, pre-feasibility studies, feasibility studies, grant applications, and international meetings and conferences. In contrast, the North Atlantic Salmon Foundation is efficient, effective, and very lean. It employs only one secretary, the rest of the work is done by volunteers.

If you want somebody to conserve something, a simple approach is to pay a fair price for it. Why is this approach not more widely used?

  • The must be a system of quotas that can be traded.
  • There must be someone who will pay for the quotas.

In the case of the North Atlantic salmon, ITQs already existed. There were strong and organized constituencies in favor of preserving wild salmon, and they were willing and able to pay for it; sports fishers, river owners and conservationists. Matching funds from the government of Iceland also helped.

In addition, in the case of salmon, the ready availability of a substitute product, farmed salmon, lowered the price for wild salmon and made commercial fishing less profitable.

So, can the approach be used to save other species? Yes, if the circumstances are right.



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