Evaluation of pay-for-release conservation incentives for unintentionally caught threatened species

Antoine O.H.C. Leduc, Nigel E. Hussey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


In the developing world, the exploitation of threatened species jeopardizes their permanence in the wild. Because not all captures are intentional, for instance when capture methods have low selectivity, pressure on these species may be lessened by releasing living incidentally caught animals. However, it is often unrealistic to expect people to voluntarily do so because it means foregoing the benefits of resource extraction. Financial incentives for such animal release may foster conservation objectives. Reducing human–animal conflicts, protecting natural habitat, and conserving nests of threatened species are examples of conservation benefits that can be built on financial reward systems. However, incentives aiming to protect unintentionally captured threatened species are scarce. We considered pay for release, a type of ecosystem-service payment designed to foster the release of incidentally captured threatened species. We aimed to determine the best conditions to implement this scheme, its potential benefits (e.g., incentivizing the release of threatened species), and pitfalls and priority research needs (e.g., required conditions for pay for release to work) to show that its global applicability is possible. Given that approaches solely based on education and law enforcement may be ineffective under some circumstances, we argue that pay for release can protect incidentally captured endangered species if used under conditions conducive for its success. When local participants’ intrinsic motivation for conservation is weak, but the release of incidentally live-caught animals into their habitats is readily achievable, pay-for-release schemes could jump start urgently needed conservation efforts against indiscriminate animal harvesting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)953-961
Number of pages9
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • bycatch
  • conservation method
  • financial rewards
  • local livelihoods
  • sawfishes
  • trust-based interactions
  • unselective capture methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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