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04/25/2013

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Kate LeMasters

Coastal Capital: Belize
This article provides a well-rounded summary as to how coastal and marine ecosystems provide substantial goods and services to Belize and its economy. They use measures of tourism, fisheries, and shoreline protection to account for their contributions to the national economy and the impact that healthy coral reefs and mangroves have on these specific industries. They recognize that coastal development, overfishing, and pressures from tourism are harming these industries. They use economic valuation rather than non-market valuation, which we have been emphasizing more in class. They recognize that there study disregards consumer surplus, which could me measured by contingent valuation using WTP methods to complement their findings. Because this economic valuation has typically been done in the private sector, this new focus on public sector issues allows policy makers to better focus on large-scale and long-term projects with social benefits and costs in mind. They identify land that is vulnerable, shoreline that is protected and stable, how much stability is attributed to coral reefs/mangroves, and the damages avoided by coral reefs/mangroves. It would be interesting to see their assessment of replanting coral reefs in areas where they are currently dead and/or seawalls have been put up to protect storm surges. Because this is specifically an economic valuation, measuring the upfront costs, long-term benefits, and increased stability would be a very telling measure that we do not currently have.
One concept that I found odd was how they valued fisheries. They indicate that their measures undervalue fisheries because they disregard fish traded informally, which I assume includes subsistence fishing used to feed families. Because this was the sector of fishing most discussed in other articles, I find it disconcerting that it is disregarded here. Because much conversation about the environmental issues in Belize is in regard to local fishers that provide for their families, economic valuation should include assessments of this industry specifically. Additionally, later in the article the researchers state that Belize should include coastal developers in their discussions of funding, regulations, etc. However, they do not include the local population and/or fishers. These people should be included in these conversations so that the best options for future fishing regulations and job training can be implemented.

Bailey Ewing

To me, this paper stood to prove that Belize has an oceanic environment worth preserving; however, my thoughts kept returning to how much more extensive research is necessary if this data ever hopes to turn into policy. Now that we are sure that regulation and conservations efforts must be implemented to sustain markets that comprise over half of Belize’s GDP, we must conduct research to arrive at the most efficient ways to raise awareness and funds to turn this path of degradation around. First, instead of valuing reefs and mangroves based on revenue, as stated in this article, this study should be approached by asking consumers what their maximum willingness to pay is. This will give a higher, and more accurate, valuation of reefs and mangroves and could provide policy makers with a monetary amount that they could raise form consumers in order to protect deteriorating environments. There currently stands a consumer surplus. Second, there is currently a problem that “an individual or group seizes an immediate benefit, without considering the broader and longer-term consequences to society.” If educated, both tourists and those native to Belize would likely agree that the economy and atmosphere of Belize would drastically decline without lively tourism, fisheries and shorelines. Before much else can be accomplished however, as discussed in Pendelton’s paper that we read yesterday, it goes without question that extensive research is required in many different fields in order to arrive at comprehensive and successful conservation policy.

Holley Beasley

Kate makes a good point that the local fishers should be included in the discussions of funding and regulations. That tags along with our conversation in class today about how policy should start at the stakeholder level. One point that the article talked about that was interesting to me was the concept of a tourism multiplier. Tourists come to Belize to see the corals and mangroves and in doing so they not only pay for that experience but they also end up paying even more for food, lodging, entertainment, souvenirs, etc. These indirect, or secondary, impacts are found using a tourism multiplier. It's interesting to think about the fact that when we ask people their willingness to pay to swim with whale sharks their true willingness to pay may actually be higher than what they will respond. In their response they are not including what they will pay in addition to that whale shark experience, such as the fees for lunch and the boat trip and maybe a taxi ride to the location. Maybe these extra fees associated with the experience are part of their willingness to pay, especially if the whale sharks were the only or primary venue attracting them to Belize. However, if a group of people came to Belize to see the coral reefs and decided to go swim with whale sharks for a day since they were already there, maybe those extra fees are viewed as a sunk cost, since they would have to pay for food and transportation as tourists in Belize, probably regardless of what activity they chose to do that day. Tourism produces a large share of Virginia Beach's economy, where I live, and I can see first-hand how a decline in environmental quality decreases the tourism multiplier. The south end of Virginia Beach is pretty gross, in my opinion. It's inundated with tourists, touristy beach shops, touristy restaurants, etc. The beach and ocean is way too crowded to be very enjoyable and it's just not very clean. All the shops and restaurants are fairly cheap, granted they aren't too high quality either. The north end, however, is really only houses, with one small hotel. The beach is much cleaner, much less crowded, and it's definitely a higher-quality experience. The hotel, though not as fancy as the south end hotels, is more expensive than most of them. The only restaurant in the hotel is nothing special, but it is extremely over-priced and not that great of food, yet it is always packed. This may be a stretch, and though they are in the same city, side by side, it seems like the tourism multiplier is higher in the north end, with a higher quality beach, than in the south end.

Bess Ruff

In reference to Kate's question about the economic valuation of replanting corals, I would consider the ecosystem services paper we read for class on Wednesday. I'm curious as to whether an economic valuation of such a project would be able to accurately discount the impacts of a restored ecosystem or if the evaluation would merely calculate the original value of the ecosystem. I'm not sure how trustworthy this information would be given the long-term incapability of restored ecosystems to provide the same set of goods and services as the original. I don't know the answer, but maybe there would be some way to control for this discrepancy?

As is the case with much of the literature that we are encountering, information and communication are emphasized as necessary to developing a sustainable approach to financing and management. Although I understand it is a necessary process, I don't see a clear level of "informedness" upon which governments will finally say, "Alright, it's clear what we need to do now." The science of economic and contingent valuation is continuously evolving and the frameworks change frequently. At what point does the information we have RIGHT NOW become become sufficient enough to be utilized in real-life applications?

Bess Ruff

This paper focuses on the major benefits, beneficiaries, and economic values attributed to the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve. The article focuses on four main groups for its survey work: visitors to the reserve, non-visitors that just travel in the area of the reserve, local community residents, and Belizean fishers. Each individual group formed its own study, however, the monetary results of the visitor and non-visitor groups were combined to come up with an aggregate value for fee increases. The approach of this paper is interesting considering the way they set up their contingent valuation framework for the first two groups. This study asked how much extra money visitors and non-visitors would be willing to pay in the context of an entrance fee. This is an interest contrast to our approach to contingent valuation. Their data will obviously have more observations but I imagine the aggregate values are a bit skewed due to the difference in preferences between the visitors and non-visitors. Additionally, their WTP assessment is based on an entrance fee while ours is adding cost to an optional trip. There results will be significantly different than ours since an entrance fee would be mandatory, and therefore, any visitors to Belize would have to pay it, whereas with our proposed scenario, individuals could substitute their whale shark tours with some other excursion. The varying dynamics of this paper and our surveys shows how flexible contingent valuation can be in terms of valuing natural resources. Also, abstractly comparing the results of both surveys could reveal insight into emotions and preferences associated with different allocations of higher fees.

Corinne Hemmersbach

Coastal Capital: Belize

Today in class, we talked a great deal about the amount of research that is needed to turn data and information into policy. However, I completely agree with Bess’s point she made above on this article. How much is enough? This article, along with every other article we have read has emphasized the fact that despite the importance of the coastal and marine ecosystems and all the important goods and services they provide, the benefits are often overlooked and underappreciated in coastal investment and policy decisions. It has been proven time and time again how these ecosystems provide us with both conservation and cultural value. Yet, we have done very little about it. As these authors point out, the ecosystems of Belize are already under threat from development, overfishing, and natural disasters. And, on top of all of this, climate change will surely worsen these effects. The authors point out that it is critical for Belize’s government and citizens to work now to protect their coastal resources. So while I agree with Bailey that maybe more research could be useful, I believe we need to act upon these issues sometime soon. Otherwise we will be too late. Currently coastal communities are in high risk of losing benefits, both ecological and social, in the not-so-distant future.


Holley Beasley

One thing that really stuck out to me in this paper was that the reserve has no local substitutes because of its unique features, including the spawning aggregations and the whale shark visitation. Theoretically, this characteristic should cause the demand curve for visits to the reserve to be relatively inelastic. This should be encouraging to policy makers who want to implement an entrance fee, because they could make it even higher than the derived willingness to pay. While doing so might cause a slight decline in tourism, it shouldn't show too drastic of a change. If they didn't want to make the entrance fee higher than the WTP, they could at least make it equal to the WTP and be confident that they wouldn't lose customers.

Bess poses an interesting question of what a comparison of this paper with our studies would reveal. It might provide insight as to how people's brains respond to being mandated to do something versus choosing to do something, or being made to pay versus choosing to pay. I would not predict that it would involve emotions like shame similar to the other paper we read about the emotions involved with WTA and WTP, but I could be wrong.

Bailey Ewing

The Economic Value of the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve in Belize

I was really interested by the approach that this article took. This research is very unique in that it specifies particular groups, their opinions and then extracts information from that rather than taking a random sample and evaluating the overall response. The discussion portion of the “visitor’s” section lined up precisely with what we have been talking about in class, how our research is hypothesized to turn out, and other articles that we had read. However, as a side note, I did find the fact that WTP for divers was strangely low. With respect to non-visitors, I was definitely shocked that 95% were reported to have a high willingness to pay even though they had never visited the GSSCMR. I suppose reasons for this could be that many had the desire to be in the “visitor” classification but were limited by time, income or other reasons. But I still cannot quite understand why the percent is so high and the feedback so positive. I expected that an information gap might make them indifferent or less likely to desire conservation efforts. The next thing that impressed me was how knowledgeable, I infer, the locals are. The Belizians seem to have a good feel for how conservation efforts will affect all aspects of Belizan life and it is obvious that they value this area highly, regardless of their involvement with it. Another thing that struck me was that only 6% of respondents attested to having been consulted about reserve conservation before. This tells me that not enough research is involving locals, but is rather focusing mainly on tourists’ feelings towards conservation and their willingness to pay. I believe it would be vey useful to allow locals to be more involved by valuing their opinions more heavily. The last thing that I want to discuss, another aspect that caught my attention is the overall positive attitude that seemed to be coming from the fisherman. It seems like they had a good feel for long-term need and knew that although conservation efforts would lower current income, they were in favor of conservation efforts due to the fact that it would maintain their livelihood for a longer period of time.

Corinne Hemmersbach

The Economic Value of Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve

According to this article, Belize has established nineteen marine protected areas. Each area has varying levels of protection, management, sizes, etc. Management responsibility lies with different groups for different marine protected areas. The article suggests that most of the MPAs are co-managed between a local non-government organization and a government department.

I find this system quite inefficient. I suspect that this system is actually harming the current condition of the marine protected areas. The article suggests that several of the areas lack active management and several others lack sufficient funds. This allows illegal fishing and anchoring to destroy these reserves. I would be curious as to whether delegating management and funds through one common department and organization would reduce these inefficiencies. After all, the MPAs are critical for maintaining Belize’s reef tourism and I believe this reworking of the system could be very beneficial. Better management of these areas is beneficial to both the ecosystem and the local community. I guess I am just curious as to why the system was set up this way in the first place?

Kate LeMasters


Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes

I found the stratifying methods that this study was conducted in to be incredibly unique, as both Bess and Holly pointed out. By dividing their research into visitors, non-visitors, local community members, fishers, and tour operators, the research was able to tap into previously unexplored arenas. Most of the research we have looked at, and the research we will be conducting, focuses on visitors and non-visitors, but does not directly measure the local population and fishermen specifically. The emphasis on the local population and fishers was very intriguing, as they are often considered subordinate to visitors in evaluations. What I had not previously noticed, is that non-use values are also often left out of valuations, which further undervalues the subject of research. The researchers here successfully addressed both non-use values and the local populations.
I agree with Bailey that the fishermen and locals both seemed knowledgeable and positive about the MPA’s and raising entrance fees. These findings counteracted my preconceived notions that locals would feel that higher fees were concentrating costs while globalizing benefits. The researchers correctly point out that there are indirect benefits received by the communities from protected areas, thus higher access fees are not as much of a problem. However, the study also does a good job of identifying in what sectors different populations would be more willing to pay higher fees and the extent to which is it moral and feasible to do so. They understand that we should not concentrate fees locally, but that some fees should be aimed locally. This article also provided a more positive outlook on the local communities, as even though fishermen saw initial losses of income from the MPA, they see the need to increase protection of the reefs to sustain their livelihoods. More so than other studies, this one seemed to portray locals as having a high awareness for the functioning of marine ecosystems in that they understood short term costs and long-term benefits. They also showed this numerically, as costs are only about 12% of total benefit, so there is a very high return on investment. Lastly, there seems to be many education and job-training opportunities for locals, so the negative impact of restricted fishing access is not as detrimental as previously thought. This is encouraging to policy makers, as Holly pointed out. Not only are tourists willing to pay higher fees, but the local communities are as well.

Joe Moravec

I agree completely with Bailey’s point about local involvement in WTP formulations and valuation research. Much of the research is focused on tourist’s willingness to pay for conservation so that they can benefit from the recreation. However, I wonder what the WTP is for locals to keep tourists out of the area, given that they could have a sustainable alternative source of income. My guess is that locals in Belize don’t like seeing a great abundance of tourists on their beaches any more than Holly likes them at Virginia Beach. This means we need to take local wishes into consideration, and as Professor Casey mentioned in class (and was the case with Seychelles), this seems to be the research best practice in sustainable tourism.

It is interesting that the Hargreaves-Allen paper (Economic value of Gladden Spit…) did account for the value of MPAs to locals, both as fishermen (use-value), but also for their own recreation and intrinsic valuation, as well as deriving financial benefits from tourist use. This comprehensive valuation seems to get us towards a better figure for fully assessing the value of the marine resources. The higher the value, the greater incentive to conserve and sustainably manage the resource, so this can only be a good thing for us. This is quantified in Table 1., which seems to indicate that locals value the marine protected areas even more than tourists.

Katie D'Innocenzo

I think what Bess pointed out from the Coastal Capital: Belize article about when the data and information gathered is sufficient to actually form policy is really important. I think, in general, there is a lot of resistance in forming policies to protect these ecological goods and services because, at least in the short term, it is cheaper to keep doing things the way they have always been done. We talked earlier in the week about necessary changes in livelihood, which is just one of the things that may be halting policy action. While pushing for policy is essential, continuing to grow catalogues of information, like the MESP database we looked at today, will also continue to have a positive effect on conservation efforts. I think it's fairly obvious from literature that currently exists that conservation efforts need to move to the forefront of policymakers minds and agendas, but in all likelihood they will not and so I think continuing to expand, broaden and deepen the literature relating to this work is still necessary.

In regards to the marine protected areas management in Belize, I think our conversation about changed in livelihood is more than relevant. As Corinne pointed out, the lack in supervision of these MPAs allows for damaging illegal activity to the reefs. I don't think the citizens of Belize intentionally want to destroy the reefs - they are there to make money from illegal fishing, etc. I think retraining programs would benefit in this situation as well, since simply protecting the areas may not be enough. By showing people that they can make a living while adhering to protection laws, I doubt they would choose the illegal route.

Jennifer  Friberg

**Coastal Capital: Belize The Economic Contribution of Belize’s Coral Reefs and Mangroves

As Katie pointed out, retraining programs are a great example of treating the SOURCE of the problem, which is threatened fisheries in this specific case. Retraining programs are an effort to deal with the problem pointed out by our recent article that focused on the trade-offs along the ppf curve between biodiversity/ecosystem health and socio-economic wellbeing. By attempting to increase the number of fish and the biodiversity of the coastal ecosystems in Belize, many fishermen are put out of work. According to this article, "Belize’s fisheries are threatened by over-fishing, especially of desirable finfish such as grouper and snapper, as well as by the loss of healthy coral reef and mangrove habitat." Since overfishing is not the only factor to the demise of fisheries, focusing on the overall health of the coral reef by ceasing the destruction of mangroves and seagrass should be the main priority, along with stricter enforcement of some minor fishing laws like needing to be a resident in Belize in order to fish there. Putting more focus on the health of the ecosystem rather than stopping Belize citizens from harvesting their dinner and income makes more sense and is ideal considering the intrinsic value of ecosystems is more clear than the idea that a fishery has more value than a struggling family trying to feed their kids.

Shannon Marwitz

Coastal Capital: Belize
Bailey suggested that consumers should be asked their maximum willingness to pay. I would be very interested to see how those values compared to the ones presented in this study because it is my sense that placing a value on storm protection is much harder. It is easy to think about how you felt prior to your snorkel and how you felt after and place a value on that experience. When dealing with something like storm protection, the reef has always provided it so there is nothing to compare it to. I would suspect that services such as storm protection would be undervalued using contingent value method for this reason. I also agree with what has been said about the need for more immediate action. In oceanography, we discussed “fishing down the food chain”. This is when top predators are overharvested, which causes there to be many more of the fish the predators typically feed on. These fish are then targeted for harvesting, and the cycle continues. Once this has happened, it is incredibly difficult for the system to return to the original distribution. Since declines have already been observed in several fish species in Belize, this is an important phenomenon to consider.

Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes
Like Corinne, I was pretty surprised by how disjointed the MPAs seemed to be. In oceanography, we also read a paper about designing the most effective MPAs with regard to recovering fish populations. The authors discussed the appropriate dimensions, the spacing between and configuration of the MPAs, the inclusion of no-take zones, and a variety of other suggestions. However, their conclusions by no means should be considered the solution. Obviously, there is great variability in the types of marine ecosystems and the threats that they face so one set-up cannot be applied universally. Also, it only examined one piece of the ecosystem recovery: fisheries. The paper by Hargreaves-Allen goes beyond fisheries to examine the role of tourism and obtains values for different aspects of the reserve. This type of research is really important because while recovering fish populations may be important, it might not be as valuable another aspect of the reserve. If two processes are competing, having economic values will indicate which process to favor. Ultimately, I think that combining this type of economic research with scientific research could result in a superiorly designed system.

Jennifer  Friberg

**The Economic Value of the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve in Belize

This article had additional variables incorporated into the way the researchers calculated the value of the ecosystems, natural resources, and MPA's in Belize by introducing surveys to the locals as well as tourists. The tourists were split between both visiting and non-visiting in respect to the reserves. In agreement with Bailey, I was also thrown off guard by the results revealing that 95% of those tourists who did not visit the MPA in question (GSSCMR to be specific) had a high willingness to pay even though they had not visited. In addition to Bailey's thoughts on this interesting report of preferences and behavior I would like to point out the non-use values, such as quest value and option value. If these visitors who were surveyed were choosing to not visit not as a result of income or lack of time then it is quite possible that this survey is evidence of the utility derived from still knowing the GSSCMR merely exists or for hoping that it can be available to kids and grandkids and the future in general. Maybe just having a basic knowledge of a public good such as a marine protected area without even visiting themselves can cause people to automatically view them in a positive light worth protecting because, after all, it is a public good and morality is probably a huge affect on those who do not gain much from the MPA's as far as use value. This makes me question our hypothesis that the WTP for protecting whale sharks before and after a dive will be different. Before a dive, the anticipation of the unknown, their projected future use value, and their currently existing non-use values will still come into play.

Emily Shu

Coastal Capital: Belize

As other members of the class addressed, it is clear from the article and from past readings that Belize’s coral reefs and mangroves are an economic and environmental asset that must be protected. I thought the use of economic valuation was important because it shows just how much the reefs and mangroves currently contribute in economic value. Though I agree with Bailey that this amount is only a baseline and that it would be more accurate to measure willingness to pay, I do worry that without proper education on just how serious the situation is, locals, tourists, and consequently policy makers will not consider the tradeoffs and look only at the short-run benefits of the large margin and thus, maintain status quo. Despite my belief that there is a genuine willingness and drive to encourage conservation, I am skeptical about the ability of policy makers to act because as some people have pointed out in the class, they have already been inundated with information - how much research is enough?
One item that caught my attention in the article was its discussion on cruise tourism and how the negative impacts of the boats greatly outweigh the economic benefits. It will be interesting to see if the government acts upon this information at all. Venice suffers from over pollution due to these large ships and the Italian government has made efforts to ban the ships from the canals.

The Economic Value of the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, a Coral Reef Marine Protected Area in Belize

Like others in the class, I was intrigued to see that this study incorporated use and non-use values for both the community at large and specifically fishermen. The fisher survey responses reflected the confusion and difficult position that the industry is in. While there is a clear understanding of the need to protect the reefs (97% support), there are blatant violations of no-take zones (67%), showing that at least for the fishing industry, short-run concerns overshadow long-run consequences, a path that will undoubtedly lead to disaster.
It was interesting that the authors brought up raising current fees as a method to improve the self-financing capacity of the reserve. As some in the class point out, the structure of the governance of MPAs is confusing and perhaps not the most efficient manner of providing the best conservation capabilities. If the reserve could self-finance, they would be able to have full control over its operations, avoid bureaucratic policy standstills, and enforce stricter regulations so that illegal fishing would not occur.

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