The role of shark ecotourism in conservation behaviour: evidence from Hawaii

Sutcliffe, Sarah R., and Barnes, Michele L. (2018) The role of shark ecotourism in conservation behaviour: evidence from Hawaii. Marine Policy, 97. pp. 27-33.

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Abstract

Policies to conserve sharks have generally struggled to gain broad public support. Ecotourism programs have been suggested as a way to promote support for conservation by increasing participants' knowledge of ecology, fostering positive environmental attitudes, and driving increases in conservation behaviour. Yet the evidence is mixed, and some argue that its effectiveness is constrained by the "ceiling effect", i.e., people attracted to ecotourism programs are already environmentally minded, thus their participation does not result in meaningful conservation gains. Surveys of 547 tour participants in a cage free shark diving ecotourism program and 488 members of the general public were conducted in Hawaii to test whether the program resulted in conservation benefits or whether it was constrained by the ceiling effect. The results show evidence of the ceiling effect, suggesting that the program is attracting more environmentally minded participants. Despite this, tour participants reported a significant increase in knowledge regarding the ecological role of sharks and improved attitudes towards sharks after the tour compared to before. Critically, once responses from tour participants and the general public were pooled and previous engagement in conservation was controlled for, participation in the tour still had a significant positive effect on intentions to engage in shark conservation in the future, suggesting that the program does result in meaningful conservation gains. The usefulness of the information provided on the tour in addition to participants' age, gender, and satisfaction with the tour all played a role in determining its effectiveness as a conservation strategy.

Item ID: 56423
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1872-9460
Keywords: shark conservation, attitudes, knowledge, conservation behaviour, ceiling effect
Copyright Information: © 2018 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Funders: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, US National Science Foundation (NSF)
Projects and Grants: NSF Grant #1513354
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2018 09:39
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050203 Environmental Education and Extension @ 30%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 30%
15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1506 Tourism > 150606 Tourist Behaviour and Visitor Experience @ 40%
SEO Codes: 90 COMMERCIAL SERVICES AND TOURISM > 9003 Tourism > 900302 Socio-Cultural Issues in Tourism @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 40%
90 COMMERCIAL SERVICES AND TOURISM > 9098 Environmentally Sustainable Commercial Services and Tourism > 909899 Environmentally Sustainable Commercial Services and Tourism not elsewhere classified @ 20%
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