Divers’ Willingness to Pay for Improved Coral Reef Conditions in Guam: An Untapped Source of Funding for Management and Conservation?
25 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2015
Date Written: September 23, 2015
Coral reefs are degrading globally, yet are essential to coastal and island economies, particularly in the Pacific. The diving industry benefits from coral reef management and can be positively or negatively impacted by ecological change. Quantifying divers’ ecological preferences that influence economic outcomes can help inform managers and justify conservation. Utilizing non-market valuation, we assess SCUBA divers’ preferences and WTP for ecological attributes of coral reef ecosystems in Guam, and investigate socioeconomic drivers influencing preferences. A discrete choice experiment grounded in ecosystem modeling reveals divers are willing to pay user fees in reef ecosystems with greater ecological health (higher fish biomass, diversity, and charismatic species). Improvement in fish biomass from low (<25g/m2) to high (>60g/m2) was worth over $2 million/year. Presence of sharks and turtles together was the preeminent attribute, with divers WTP $15-20 million/year. Contingent valuation results suggest divers are willing to make voluntary payments ($900 thousand) towards sediment-reduction projects in upland watersheds. These payments could benefit divers and the broader tourism industry by improving reef conditions. Relatively few policy instruments are in place worldwide collecting fees from divers for coastal management, and none in Guam. Our results suggest this remains an untapped funding source for coral reef management and conservation.
Keywords: Coral reefs, sharks, Guam, ecosystem based management, tourism
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