An assessment of divers' willingness to pay for conservation of common pool resources
MetadataShow full item record
Scuba divers diving anywhere in the world's oceans must be concerned about preservation and conservation of the ocean and its ecosystem. Even other ocean users who regard conservation as a responsibility of the government cannot avoid taking responsibility for the sustainability of the ocean, which is vital for their income, medicine, recreation, coastal protection and biodiversity support. This responsibility is drawn from the fact that oceans and seas are common pool resources, and being subject to rivalry and non-excludability, they have realised degradation and depletion from human activities to current unsustainable levels. The sustainability of the ocean and seas is managed and regulated by Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), which are established to protect and preserve marine ecosystems. Yet, these MPA's are poorly funded and lack enough investment to implement their conservation strategies. This is an area that is vital in pushing for sustainable marine life resources, and yet so poorly studied in the European context, with revenues generated from fees that could be used to improve conservation efforts. One of the ways to evaluate the economic value of MPA's and funding opportunities is through the user-payer principle. The user-payer principle encourages the user of a resource to pay for the environmental cost of using the resource. In addition, a user fee can serve as a tool to control the number of visitors so as to minimise marine ecosystem damage. This can aid in the environmental, economic and social sustainability of similar diving systems. This thesis addresses the gap on encouraging funding opportunities for MPA's, particularly Portofino MPA, in Italy, according to scuba divers, as a group of users of the MPA. This is done by way of willingness to pay studies using a double-bounded dichotomous choice method, discrete choice experiment method, and moderating and mediating effects method. The main objective of this study is to evaluate scuba divers' willingness to pay towards marine conservation, investigate which environmental attributes they value the most, and their attitudes towards environmental protection and how it affects their environmental behaviour. Data for the study were collected in two stages. The first set of data was collected in June and July 2016 from 442 scuba divers in Portofino, Italy, using a double-bounded dichotomous choice questionnaire. This data was used to explore the willingness to pay a user fee for conservation, as well as divers' opinions about specific human behaviour and their effect on the ocean. The second set of data was collected in June and July 2017 from 556 scuba divers in Portofino, Italy, using a discrete choice experiment questionnaire. This data was used to investigate the trade-offs between four different environmental attributes in terms of importance, as well as the extent to which divers' egoistic, altruistic and biospheric values influence their willingness to pay for conservation. This study employs three different analyses towards its objective. The first analysis involved a willingness to pay evaluation using a stated preference contingent valuation method called double-bounded dichotomous contingent choice method, where respondent divers were presented with a bid amount to pay for improvement in the Portofino MPA, and asked (yes/no) whether they would be willing to pay. Depending on their answer to the question, they would be asked a higher or lower bid amount. Using a probit model, the results show that scuba divers in Portofino are willing to pay €6.79 and those who are not willing to pay believe that the government is responsible for conservation. The second analysis involved an evaluation of the environmental attributes that are most important to divers in Portofino, measured through willingness to pay, using another stated preference method called discrete choice method. Two choice sets were presented to the divers, each with two different options of a diving environmental scenario, with price tags representing the cost of having the scenario from which respondents were asked to choose. Using a multinomial logit, conditional logit and a multinomial probit model, the results showed that the environmental attributes valued the most are underwater visibility and reduced diver crowding. The third analysis involved scuba divers investigating divers' value orientations (egoistic, altruistic or biospheric) and how much it influences their willingness to pay. Following the value belief norm model, this analysis assumes that scuba divers base their beliefs on environmental degradation according to their biospheric, egoistic and social-altruistic values. Using the General Awareness of Consequences Scale (GAC), an exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and logistic regression model were conducted. Mediator and moderator effects were tested. Results show that though there are no moderating and mediating effects, high egoistic oriented divers are willing to pay the most, followed by low biospheric and neutral altruistic oriented divers. Through these three analyses, the author was able to investigate the trade-offs among environmental attributes and scuba diver value orientations. Conclusions from these results were used to inform the MPA on how user-fees can be used as a reliable source of financing MPAs, the environmental attributes that are most important for scuba divers and the value orientations that trigger pro-environmental behaviour in scuba divers.