Effective interpretation for recreational marine resource use in the Mombasa Marine Park and Reserve, Kenya

den Haring, Sander Diego (2014) Effective interpretation for recreational marine resource use in the Mombasa Marine Park and Reserve, Kenya. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Recreational use of marine resources may result in irreversible impacts on the marine environment. Coral reefs, which are under increasing threat from numerous anthropogenic impacts, are particularly susceptible to damage by recreational use. Nature-based tourism research has shown that interpretation (i.e. the process of conveying a message and providing guidance to the visitor to create an understanding and an appreciation of natural resources) can be used to promote pro-environmental behavior (less detrimental to the environment) among visitors thereby reducing their impacts on the resources they use. However, few studies have investigated the efficacy of interpretation in minimizing the negative impacts created by visitors to marine areas. In this study, I explored the theoretical and applied dimensions of interpretation and its efficacy for encouraging more pro-environmental behavior among scuba divers and snorkelers on coral reefs in the Mombasa Marine Park and Reserve, Kenya.

I developed a theoretical framework to guide the research. According to the framework, behavior of scuba divers and snorkelers is a result of situational, personal and environmental factors. The theoretical framework incorporated behavior theory (the Theory of Planned Behavior) and communication theory (the Elaboration Likelihood Model) to guide the implementation and evaluation of interpretive efforts. Guided by the theoretical framework, I investigated four specific objectives: 1) to determine the drivers that influence the behavior of scuba divers (not coming within 10cm of the reef substrate), and snorkelers (not contacting the reef substrate) when they dive/snorkel, and, if this behavior is volitional; 2) to determine the salient beliefs of the scuba divers and snorkelers regarding the target behavior; 3) to investigate the efficacy of interpretation based on salient beliefs of snorkelers; and 4) to determine if behavioral beliefs of snorkelers changed for a long-term duration after interpretive efforts.

In the first stage of the study, I investigated the behavior of 192 scuba divers and 167 snorkelers to determine the drivers of this behavior and if the behavior was volitional (Chapter 2). Results showed that contact behavior (defined as contacting the reef substrate) of scuba divers and snorkelers was influenced weakly by experience (more experience resulted in fewer contacts), but was not significantly influenced by situational (i.e. dive site, dive guide) or environmental factors (i.e. current, visibility). Results indicate that visitors' direct interactions with the reef substrate are largely under their volitional control. Consequently, according to the theoretical framework, it should be possible to influence these behaviors using interpretation targeted at the specific beliefs that underlie visitor's behavior.

Subsequently I monitored the in-water behavior of 159 scuba divers and 59 snorkelers (Chapter 3). I then interviewed these individuals to identify their salient beliefs about potentially damaging behavior to the reef (i.e. not coming within 10cm of the reef for the divers and not contacting the reef for the snorkelers). The most common beliefs identified were: the scuba divers and snorkelers believed that not making potentially damaging contacts would offer the reef protection, that the dive/snorkel guides are the people most likely to approve of them (the divers and snorkelers) not making potentially damaging contacts, and that the dive/snorkel guides are the people most likely to avoid potentially damaging contacts with the reef. The scuba divers also believed that not coming within 10cm of the reef substrate was disadvantageous to them as it prevents them (the divers) from seeing as much when they dive. Scuba divers furthermore believed that buoyancy control and favorable water conditions would make it easier for them not to come within 10cm of the reef when they dive. The snorkelers also believed the snorkel guides would disapprove of them (the snorkelers) not contacting the reef, and also, that deeper water and more information would make it easier not to contact the reef when they snorkel. Based on the theoretical framework, these salient beliefs should be targeted in interpretive efforts to realize behavior change.

In the next stage I investigated the efficacy of interpretation in influencing snorkel contact behavior (Chapter 4). Data from snorkelers were collected regarding their behavioral beliefs, normative beliefs, control beliefs, behavioral intentions, knowledge of marine ecosystems, snorkel behavior, and their perceptions of their snorkel experience. Based on these results and the salient beliefs collected in Chapter 3, I developed an interpretive program presented to snorkel boat operators in a dedicated workshop, and that they subsequently implemented on snorkel excursions. Upon completion of subsequent data collection, I was able to examine the differences between two groups of snorkelers: those that had received no interpretation (preworkshop, n=100) and those that had received interpretation (post-workshop, n=104). Those snorkelers who had received interpretation displayed more pro-environmental snorkel behavior and were generally more satisfied with specific aspects of the snorkel excursion (increased visitor experience). These results indicate a successful interpretive program based on salient beliefs and targeted by interpretive efforts. Interpretive efforts that incorporate behavior (change) theory can be effective in promoting pro-environmental snorkel behavior.

In the final component I examined whether the interpretation resulted in long-term belief changes, beyond the short-term changes in snorkel behavior (Chapter 5). Six to 14 months following their snorkel excursion, 167 participants were emailed a web questionnaire that contained questions the participants had completed prior to their snorkel excursion, regarding their behavioral intentions, control beliefs, and behavioral beliefs. Most of the beliefs had not been altered over the six-month period. According to the Elaboration Likelihood Model, which holds that the type of behavior change (short- or long-term) depends on the amount of elaboration, the interpretation received by the participants was not sufficient to create longterm behavior (belief) change.

When using interpretive interventions to change the potentially damaging behavior of visitors to natural resources, it is essential that the target behavior is volitional and open to interpretive efforts. By investigating the potentially damaging behavior of marine resource users, paired with an understanding of behavior theory, this study has shown that directed interpretation, based on the salient beliefs of visitors, can be considered an effective management tool in the protection and preservation of marine resources. The theoretical framework, incorporating behavior theory (the Theory of Planned Behavior) and communication theory (the Elaboration Likelihood Model), was effective in explaining the degree of influence, and its limitations, that interpretation had on snorkeling and diving behavior. In particular, it guided the use of salient beliefs in designing an interpretation program, and also explained the limited efficacy of this program in affecting short-term behavior but not long-term beliefs. Future research should focus efforts on understanding how interpretive efforts can most effectively target salient beliefs to realize long-term changes of behavior. This would result in benefits of interpretation extending from the local area to larger scale (in space and time) resource protection.

Item ID: 40679
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: coral reef ecology; diving; effect of divers; effect of human beings; environmental management; interpretation; Kenya; marine parks; marine reserves; Mombasa; natural resource management; recreational diving; resource use; scuba divers; scuba diving; skin divers; snorkelers; snorkeling
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Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

den Haring, Sander D. (2012) Interpretation to manage marine recreational resource use in Mombasa, Kenya. In: Proceedings of the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium, pp. 1-6. From: 12th International Coral Reef Symposium, 9-13 July 2012, Cairns, QLD, Australia.

Date Deposited: 01 Oct 2015 03:22
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960604 Environmental Management Systems @ 100%
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