Estimating the demand for and economic value of 'fish' in the recreational fishing and tourism sectors: general methodological issues and empirical findings relevant to the Great Barrier Reef

Farr, Marina (2013) Estimating the demand for and economic value of 'fish' in the recreational fishing and tourism sectors: general methodological issues and empirical findings relevant to the Great Barrier Reef. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Around the world, natural resource management policies attempt to find ways of sustainably managing terrestrial, freshwater and marine natural resources. Marine areas are traditionally common property resources thus they are often subject to overuse. Each multiple user (e.g. commercial fishers, recreational fishers, tourists, and tourism operators) puts pressure on the marine environment. One of the biggest challenges facing marine resource managers, is thus being to determine how to allocate resources across them. Those charged with managing conflicts between different user groups could benefit thus from information about 'value' (formally, the net marginal benefits) of these resources to each competing user.

There is much publically available data and research relating to commercial fishers, and for this sector, market price can often be used as a guide when assessing marginal values (MVs). So the research 'gap' associated with the commercial sector is, arguably, not as significant as it is for others. Much research has also been done on tourism. But whilst many studies have sought to estimate the total value of tourism as an entire industry or the total value of a trip/experience, few researchers have attempted to assess the MV of a 'fish' or of a single species to tourists. The studies that have been done, were, for the most part, conducted in various parts of the United States or Europe.

Compared to the commercial and tourism sectors, there is relatively little information available about recreational fishing, and existing studies do not differentiate between: the boating and fishing experience; and the characteristics of those who are most likely to keep or release a fish and the characteristics of those who keep most fish (those who place greatest strain on the resource). Moreover, most recreational fishing studies use historical or actual catch -ex post measures -rather than anticipated (ex ante) catch when estimating MVs. As such, relatively little is known about the 'value' of fish to this sector.

The primary aim of my thesis, was therefore to help fill those research gaps – specifically: improving methodological approaches for estimating the demand for and economic values of 'fish' in the recreational fishing and tourism sectors whilst also providing regionally relevant empirical information. The area selected for study was the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) which offers itself as an ideal case study area – not only because it has multiple, relevant, users, but also because there are significant empirical gaps in this region. As such, choice of this area as a case-study provided an opportunity to ensure that my thesis generated empirical and policy insights (in addition to methodological ones).

The first aim of my thesis was to learn more about the importance (or otherwise) of disaggregating the fishing/boating experience. More specifically, I sought to determine if the factors influencing the probability of participating in fishing/boating activities and the factors influencing the intensity of boating, boat-based and land-based fishing trips were similar or different. In addition I also aimed to provide information to managers of the GBR about the characteristics of boaters, boat-fishers and land-based fishers.

The second aim of my thesis was to learn more about Catch and Release (C&R) in recreational fishing. I set out to provide an empirical demonstration of a model that allows one to differentiate between factors that influence the keep/release decision and those that influence the total annual keep decision and to compare the determinants of the keep/release decision with determinants of the total number of fish kept annually. I also sought to generate information for fisheries managers in the GBR about the characteristics of anglers who are likely to keep most fish annually (and who are thus likely to contribute most to fishing pressure in this part of the world).

The third aim of my thesis was to learn more about the MV of a 'fish' for recreational fishers. I differentiated between expected and actual recreational catch so as to: learn more about the drivers of expected (ex-ante) catch and actual (ex-post) catch; to estimate and compare the MV of fish using ex post and ex ante measures of recreational catch; and to provide information about MV of a recreational fish to the GBR managers.

The fourth aim of my thesis was to learn more about the MV of a species for tourists. In this investigation, I was also interested in exploring the sensitivity of final WTP estimates to various methodological issues (e.g. bid-end values, bid presentation orders, the 'menu' of species presented for evaluation, and the analytical approaches taken – sophisticated econometrics or simple mid-points), and in providing information to managers of the GBR about the non-consumptive 'value' of key species for tourists. I addressed aim one in Chapter 2. I used survey data collected from 656 householders in the Townsville region and a (two-step) hurdle model to investigate key factors influencing both the probability of participating and the frequency of (a) boating trips which involve fishing; (b) boating trips which do not involve fishing; and (c) land-based fishing trips. The findings suggest that there are differences in determinants, highlighting the importance of disaggregating the fishing/boating and boat/land-based experience (an uncommon practice in the literature) if wishing to obtain information for use in the design of monitoring programs, policy and/or for developing monitoring and enforcement strategies relating to fishing and boating.

To meet aim 2 (Chapter 3) I used data collected in that same household survey within a Zero Inflated Negative Binomial model (another two step approach) to identify and to compare the determinants of total annual keep with those of the probability of keeping fish on a particular trip. I found that the determinants are different: age and activity commitment influence the probability of keeping fish; boat ownership, income, consumptive orientation, fishing experience, number of annual trips and retirement status are the main determinants of total annual keep. Evidently, those wishing to use C&R as a fishery management tool may need to ensure that their background studies consider total annual keep rather than only focusing on the probability of keeping a fish. In this case study region, failure to do so would mean that managers could be duped into monitoring factors such as age and commitment, and misinterpret consumptive orientation, rather than other factors such as boat ownership, income and retirement status.

To address aim 3 (Chapter 4) I used data from a survey of 404 anglers from the Townsville region in a Tobit Model to estimate and compare the drivers of expected (ex-ante) catch and actual (ex-post) catch. I also used a Hedonic Price Model (Instrumental Variable Tobit) to estimate and compare the MV of fish, using ex post and ex ante measures of recreational catch . The results indicate that the determinants of ex ante and ex post recreational catch are different. Expectations are largely driven by motivations (e.g. importance of fishing for fun and for eating) but personal variables – such as consumptive orientation, years fishing and gender – have a greater influence on outcomes (ex post catch). Evidently, those interested in predicting behaviours may need to pay greater attention to motivations, and somewhat less attention to socio-demographics. I also found that the marginal, ex ante estimates of 'value' were much lower than ex post 'values': $7.38 versus $22.83 AUS, respectively. Differences are likely to be attributable to differences in expectations and actual catches.

Finally, to address aim 4 (Chapter 5) I used the Kristrom Spike Model to analyse contingent valuation (payment card) data collected from 2180 domestic and international visitors taking reef trips to the Northern section of the GBR. I found that final estimates were particularly sensitive to questionnaire design, but that the ranking of species (from most to least 'valued') were robust across a range of methodological specifications. The most valued groups of species were (in order): whales and dolphins; sharks and rays; 'variety'; marine turtles; and finally large fish. Evidently, whale watching is not the only potentially lucrative source of tourism revenue; other marine species may be similarly appealing. These potential revenues need to be considered when making decisions about whether or not to conserve marine species.

For those who are in charge with management and allocation of 'fish' my thesis highlights the importance of differentiating between boating and fishing, boat fishing and land-based fishing, recreational catch and recreational keep, and the probability of keeping/releasing and the total number of fish kept annually. My thesis demonstrates techniques that can be used to facilitate this differentiation, with results clearly indicating that a two-step approach is likely to generate better quality information about those placing greatest pressure on fishing stocks than simpler one-step analyses that fail to differentiate these groups.

That said, my thesis also demonstrates that one should not get too bogged down in econometric detail: as demonstrated in both chapters 4 and 5, final estimates can be more sensitive to differences in survey design (e.g. use of ex ante or ex post constructs; bid range, and 'menu') than to analytical techniques (e.g. simple means versus sophisticated Spike models). Researchers may thus need to devote every bit as much time and energy into survey design and data collection as they do into data analysis.

Clearly value estimates are not 'precise' – they are sensitive to a range of methodological issues. Thus natural resource managers should be cautious of using just single estimates when considering the allocation of 'fish' (or indeed any scarce resource) across competing using groups. Instead of using just single point-estimates, a constructed range could be more useful – if only because it clearly demonstrates the uncertainties associated with such estimates.

Henry and Lyle, (2003, p. 23) note that without detailed information about MVs, debates about which sector should have more or less fish are basically unsolvable. My research has not 'solved' the problem. But it has made a significant contribution providing more information about MVs for recreational fishing and tourism in the GBR and more information about techniques for trying to estimate and better understand those values.

Item ID: 31097
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: boat based fishing; economic value estimation; fisher motivation; GBRWHA; Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area; land based fishing; public surveys; recreational catch; recreational fishing; recreational keep; resource allocation; sustainable management; Townsville region
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Additional Information:

For this thesis, Marina Farr received the Dean's Award for Excellence 2014.

Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Farr, Marina, Stoeckl, Natalie, and Beg, Rabiul Alam (2014) The non-consumptive (tourism) 'value' of marine species in the Northern section of the Great Barrier Reef. Marine Policy, 43. pp. 89-103.

Farr, Marina, Stoeckl, Natalie, and Beg, Rabiul Alam (2011) The efficiency of the Environmental Management Charge in the Cairns management area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 55 (3). pp. 322-341.

Stoeckl, Natalie, Esparon, Michelle, Stanley, Owen, Farr, Marina, Delisle, Aurélie, and Altai, Zulgerel (2011) Socio-Economic Activity and Water Use in Australia's Tropical Rivers: a case study in the Mitchell and Daly River catchments: final report for The Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge Research Consortium. Report. Charles Darwin University, Darwin.

Stoeckl, Natalie, Birtles, Alastair, Farr, Marina, Mangott, Arnold, Curnock, Matthew, and Valentine, Peter (2010) Live-aboard dive boats in the Great Barrier Reef: regional economic impact and the relative values of their target marine species. Tourism Economics, 16 (4). pp. 995-1018.

Stoeckl, N., Birtles, A., Valentine, P., Farr, M., Curnock, M., Mangott, A., and Sobtzick, S. (2010) Understanding the Social and Economic Values of Key Marine Species in the Great Barrier Reef: MTSRF Project 4.8.6(a) Final Report, June 2010 with a section focusing on marine turtles. Report. Reef & Rainforest Research Centre, Townsville, QLD, Australia.

Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2014 23:29
FoR Codes: 14 ECONOMICS > 1402 Applied Economics > 140205 Environment and Resource Economics @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management @ 50%
SEO Codes: 83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8302 Fisheries - Wild Caught > 830201 Fisheries Recreational @ 100%
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