[Taxacom] Collecting Samples From Another Country

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Mon Jul 18 19:45:54 CDT 2011

Frank Krell wrote:

>Fabian wrote:
>"In any case, I think its fair to assume that you need a collection
>permit everywhere you go these days. Even in your home countries. And
>there is no way around it!"
>I wonder how and why this happened.
>I also wonder whether it helps to protect and maintain populations 
>of specimens to be collected, or whether it helps local researchers 
>anywhere, or whether it promotes scientific endeavor and progress in 
>any way that I fail to recognize.
>So what is the good of this development?

In principle, the only beneficial effect of this is to give a legal 
"stick" with which to smack smugglers and poachers. If it were legal 
to collect everywhere without permits, then there would be no penalty 
for people who wanted to set up large-scale commercial enterprises 
(regardless of economic or ecological impact). I have no doubt that 
even for insects such a market would flourish, given how many "insect 
collectors" there are in the world who do not physically go out and 
collect insects, but simply buy and trade for them.

Evidently it is believed by administrators creating the regulations 
that (1) typical collectors are ethical individuals who will 
dutifully file for permits, thus giving the administrators some idea 
as to who is collecting what, where, and when (which, if true, would 
conceivably be helpful in managing one's natural resources), but I 
suspect that this is a rather naive expectation, and (2) that the 
only things people collect are vertebrates and rare plants, or other 
taxa that can be easily identified to species. The end result is that 
scientists - who are bound by granting agencies to follow all 
pertinent protocol - are the ones most adversely affected, especially 
adverse when the regulations are (as all too often is the case) 
written for vertebrates and extended to things like insects without 
modification (the most common being the requirement to list how many 
specimens, and of exactly which species).

I don't believe Donat's claim that permitting requirements are to 
prevent bioprospecting is accurate; the only way to prevent 
exploitative bioprospecting by foreign entitites is to not allow ANY 
collecting by foreigners whatsoever. A permit is no barrier. If I ran 
a biomedical firm, I would not balk at filing a permit that costs 
only a hundred dollars or so, if I believed that I might make 

An enlightened approach to regulation would, obviously, include (1) 
completely different provisions for different kinds of organisms, and 
(2) provisions that give waivers to recognized scientific 
institutions and those affiliated with them, and (3) explicit, 
internationally-binding provisions regarding profit-sharing on 
commercial products. This is unlikely to ever happen so long as the 
people writing the rules are not themselves scientists, though an 
organized scientific lobbying entity might make a difference.


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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