Orri Vigfusson has a legitimate claim to being the saviour of the Atlantic salmon population. As his obituary points out:
The problem had begun, he said, in the 1950s, when the fishing industry discovered that salmon from rivers in North America and Europe gathered in the sea around Greenland and the Faroe Isles. A massive fishing operation was established, with thousands of miles of driftnets placed across the routes taken by the fish and the near destruction of the species.
Vigfússon realised that in the long run this was not sustainable and in 1989 set up the North Atlantic Salmon Fund with the aim of preserving and restoring those stocks. Using the wealth he had acquired from various business interests — including selling Icelandic vodka to the Russians — he bought up the fishing rights from trawler owners and others whose livelihoods had led to the depletion of the fish. The fund raised additional cash to support his work and over nearly three decades it has been able to buy and retire an estimated 85 per cent of commercial salmon quotas in the North Atlantic basin.
We have long insisted that fishing quotas should be exactly such transferable, monetisable, assets. Not despite these efforts rather because of them. No one needed to be dispossessed of their property of livelihood by law, we could and did leave it to the normal workings of the market. One of the driving economic forces here being the realisation that salmon fly fishing rights along rivers were worth more than the rights out to sea to those same salmon. Buying uot the one to protect the other thus made perfect economic sense.
He believed that commercial conservation agreements were better than intergovernmental treaties. “Why? Because if you don’t [follow the agreement], you don’t get paid,” he said. “Money talks.”
Quite so. There are many who hanker for a world in which this isn't true but we really do think it best to deal with humans as they are, not as we might wish them to be. Therefore, if you want to preserve the environment why not buy a bit of it then preserve it?