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Beluga Business

I’m not usually interested in caviar, but today’s New York Times story (as always, free registration required) caught my attention. The exporting of caviar fished through non-sustainable means was ordered to stop by the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which acted in the hopes of revitalizing the wild sturgeon population.

I think this initiative is doomed to fail. The article indicates that half the problem is illegal poaching. And that the last act to preserve the sturgeon population lasted a mere three weeks. I believe this will not work because the simple fact remains that most businesses can’t look beyond the bottom line and the latest quarter. With beluga prices doubling in the last year, caviar’s scarcity only helps the fisheries. Most companies will not fish less or more expensively and hurt their profits.

It is the rare leader who can have vision for the next five years; who can correctly act in a way that may hurt the company short-term but will help in the long run. To expect an entire industry to act like this, not to mention the dark half that works illegally, is unrealistic. While change begins with one person, it usually needs the correct environment to spread and take hold. It seems the sturgeon-infested waters will probably resist such a sea change.

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