I have always liked whales.  I liked them long before I saw one.  When I learned that the book Moby Dick was about a whale, as a child, I didn’t want to read it because long and bitter experience had taught me that a children’s book about animal always ends with the animal dying, particularly children’s books.  When my big brother promised me the whale lived in the end, I read the book with enormous pleasure.   Pity about all those humans.

The copy Daddy had bought for us had wonderful illustrative plates showing whaling scenes.  There was plenty of action in them.  The plates were then lifted in a “Buz Sawyer” cartoon which ended up in a collection of some of the best comic strips of all time.  I wonder whether the judges knew that the graphics had been cribbed.

So loving whales from afar, I became aware about 40 years ago (I hate to admit that; what could it do to my reputation as a boy genius?) that there was a movement to eliminate whaling, and the Japanese were holding out.  With the audacity of youth I wrote

The Department of Fisheries

and asked how much it would cost to ransom a whale.  If they would agree to spare one whale that year, I would pay for the difference between the market price of the whale meat and the market price of the next cheapest source of protein.  Of course they never answered.  But they did agree to international treaties not too long thereafter. 

Well now my personal lunacy has become mainstream.  (Christopher Costello A Market Approach to Saving the Whales NATURE vol. 481 no. 7380 January 12, 2012 page 139) The idea is to issue tradable rights to take whales.  A country is given a certain number of whales it could harvest and then has the option of selling that right.  Allowing conservationists to bid for those rights would mean that the total number of whales taken could decrease if the interest was there.

So I feel gratified.  I do not claim I was instrumental in bringing the idea to the public, but at least I thought about it.  And it hasn’t happened yet; it may never happen.  But the idea is abroad.  I certainly hope one other issue does not take 40 years to see daylight. 

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