Recreational diver preferences for reef fish attributes: Economic implications of future change
This study sought to quantify the potential effects of changes in Caribbean reef fish populations on recreational divers' consumer surplus. Over five hundred tourist SCUBA divers were interviewed at seven sites across three Caribbean countries representing a diversity of individuals within the Caribbean dive market. A choice experi- ment was used to assess willingness to pay as a function of the abundance and size of reef fishes, the presence of fishing activity/gear, and dive price. Despite some preference heterogeneity both between and within sites, the results indicate that future declines in the abundance of reef fishes, and particularly in the number of large fishes observed on recreational dives, will result in significant reductions in diver consumer surplus. On the other hand, improvements in fish populations and reduced fishing gear encounters are likely to result in signif- icant economic gains. These results can be used to justify investment in pre-emptive management strategies targeted at improving reef fish stocks (namely reducing unsustainable fishing activities and land-based reef im- pacts), managing conflicting uses, as well as to indicate a possible source of financing for such conservation activities.