A few days ago, I wrote about natural disasters and how they could destroy a good business overnight. I wrote this not to scare or discourage; my goal was to promote preparedness.
I saw today two possible game-changers that come from a different source: government actions. I make not claims about whether these make sense or are good policy; I just want to highlight another set of threats to business viability.
Banning Dolphin “Swims”
The National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a proposed rule change that would ban “dolphin swims” within 50 yards of our coastal spinner dolphin populations. Good or bad, this means that many businesses built on the idea of dolphin swims/encounters will no longer be able to take tourists and drop them in close proximity to dolphin pods. There are many boats that advertise dolphin swims, and it’s common to see four or five boats with 30-40 swimmers around and in spinner dolphin pods.
These businesses will have to change, and I would guess many of these will see reduced revenue because a “snorkel trip” sounds way less appealing to many than a “dolphin swim.”
Expansion of Marine National Monument, Papahanaumokuakea
About a decade ago, President Bush created a federally-protected area in the northwest part of the Hawaii. It was a huge area that was off-limits to commercial activity, including commercial fishing. President Obama has now quadrupled the area to almost 600,000 sq miles. Again, good or bad, this will affect the livelihood of many commercial fishing operations, and force them to compete in international waters for fish. Prices for fresh fish in Hawaii are likely to rise.
These game changers, many would argue, were predictable. Anyone watching a handful of boats descend upon a pod of dolphins could probably imagine that this behavior was going to be looked at by environmental agencies and possibly be considered detrimental to the dolphins’ health.
What are some other areas where we might expect rule changes that will put some businesses out of business?
The manta night dives have always been a point of contention by locals, environmentalists and tour operators. It used to be two or three boats with 10-20 people in the water; now, on some nights you’ll see perhaps 75 people in the water. There have been rumblings of new rules lately.
Mauna Kea access and tours. There is a lot of discussion about Mauna Kea access and use. Expect that there might be some drastic changes for those who run tours on the mountain.
Beach activities. The surf schools at Kahaluu Beach, the beach wedding providers and the kayak rental businesses up and down the coast might see their ability to do business affected by state of federal regulations.
Fish collecting. Some of the Kona coast is off-limits to fish collectors, those who catch, bag and sell ocean fish to the aquarium trade. With a stroke of a pen, the practice could be banned, regulated or highly taxed. This is a highly-contentious issue for many, and it would only take a few people in the right places to stop this activity.
The one thing all of the business activities mentioned in this post have in common is that they rely on public land and oceanic resources to operate. I see that the businesses that tend to create the perception of environment overuse or affecting cultural resources tend to face significant risks of regulation. If I were in a business dependent on land, ocean or cultural resources, I would consider ways to cooperate and lessen perceived impact to avoid Washington, D.C or Honolulu-center regulations.
Killing the goose that lays the golden egg, has a predictable outcome.