The Spectator

Letters | 23 March 2017

Also in Spectator Letters: the tragedy of the commons in Cyprus, DNA tests for dogs, the Quran and misogyny, darning and Jack the Ripper

Speaking for Scotland

Sir: I wonder if it is wise of Charles Moore (Notes, 18 March) to assume — as so many do — that because they lost the independence referendum back in 2014, the Nationalists do not speak for Scotland? In the following general election Scottish voting virtually wiped out every political party north of the border, other than the SNP. Might it not be wiser to assume that the Scots had thought again?
Ian Olson

Birds, gangs and economics

Sir: Simon Barnes is correct in his implication that the trapping and harvesting of small birds by criminal gangs in Cyprus is enough to make the average Briton squeamish (‘Little birds, big trouble’, 18 March). However, while this may be so, the current system of enforcement is clearly failing.

The problem Barnes describes seems to the uninitiated observer to be a variation on the classic the tragedy of the commons. While nominally anyone may benefit hugely from bird-catching if they get away with it, no one is willing to police the area effectively. The risk-to-reward ratio of illegal activity is simply too good for criminal gangs to pass up.

By way of a solution, I suggest that licensed individuals (local Cypriots preferably) ought to be able purchase quotas for the catching of birds from the bases, with the revenue paying for gamekeepers to patrol the areas.

This will have the quadruple effect of eliminating the unsustainable ‘take all we can, while we can’ attitude, undermining the profitability of criminal activity, reducing friction with the local Cypriot population and allowing the base police to make actual security the priority.

While for some this may seem distasteful, it must be remembered that the current system will see the birds harvested to extinction by criminals. Creating legitimate livelihoods that rely on bird populations’ continued strength is the only way that they can be managed sustainably.

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