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Matthew Inglis

After reading this article, I feel that there exists data to support my previous assumption of a high willingness to pay for a scuba diving experience that features live organisms and great marine diversity.

Most that travel to the Caribbean to scuba dive are well-off. An increase in a fee to dive would not be felt much by the divers themselves. They have likely paid much more in travel expenses (since we learn that "most respondents were vacation travelers from the UK (46%) or the US (32%)" (page 32)). We also discover that a large portion of the respondents were "generally affluent and highly educated" (page 32). These factors lead me to believe that many are able to pay for the travel and scuba diving fees, while staying within budget, and I believe an increase in diving fees would not cause a traveler to go out of that budget - at least noticeably. This case is made stronger when one takes into consideration an increased willingness to pay for a higher quality product. The higher fee will ultimately lead to a better preserved recreational area and a better overall experience for the divers.

The benefits of higher diving fees may reach beyond the divers, as Schuhmann et al. point out in the conclusion of the paper. The local economy could profit from the change, and see an influx of some of the economic surplus. Hence, there are definitely advantages of increasing the diving fee. I wonder if this data was or will be used by local/national policy makers before the Barbados marine ecosystem becomes damaged beyond repair.

Bennett Henson

This paper analyzes survey results from vacationing SCUBA dives in Barbados in order to determine, through non market valuation, how the divers value the quality of marine biodiversity. By better understanding what divers' value, a win-win solution can be generated, where divers have more pleasant trips and natural resources are invested in and protected. The country of Barbados derives a large amount of its GDP from tourism, so it is very important that they can accurately value their resources. 47% of respondents said that their sole reason for traveling to Barbados was SCUBA diving, so it would make sense that Barbadians would want to better understand the value of their marine biodiversity to tourists. The cost benefit trade off for enhanced marine protection reveals that investment in environmental protection can yield larger returns than harvesting the resources can in the short term. People typically assume that environmental protection is not good for economic growth. Barbados, and other tourism based economies, show that environmental protection can be economically advantageous.

As we've talked about in class, environmental resources can not be valued via traditional markets due to asymmetries among private and social costs and benefits. Although I do not fully understand non market valuation, it is very interesting to read about it being applied in the real world.

Patrick McCarron

This interesting study highlights a problem facing all environmental economists: how can we monetize something we can't really sell or buy?

Surely, we would expect SCUBA divers to place a high value on sea biodiversity--it gives divers a more enriching, informative and fun experience. Therefore, the fact that SCUBA divers place a high monetary value on fish diversity and the well-being of reefs comes at no surprise.

But this is only one side of the story. The biggest issue here is that the players that contribute the most to environmental degradation are typically not those whose hobbies center around the sea's environmental well-being. Rather, the people contributing most to the problem are those whose paycheck may be enhanced by degradation in the first place.

Hence, we see the major issue of environmental economics at work here. Surely, it would be extremely difficult for sea enthusiasts, economists, and those degrading the coastal environment to agree on a "fair price" for degradation. Perhaps the best we can do would be to allow the government to set a price of this degradation; but this would probably not be the most efficient price for SCUBA divers--whose livelihoods and main hobbies are pinned exclusively on coastal biodiversity.

Maddi Boireau

From the first paragraph of the introduction I knew there really wasn't a way to this paper was going to end on a positive note. "The cost of doing business" is a terrible excuse people use to defend the way they make money. Often this cost is something other than monetary, if it were people would care about it a lot more. In this case and many other cases, the cost is environmental degradation. Like Patrick said, the people contributing most to the problem are those whose paycheck relies on the degradation of the environment, not the SCUBA divers that were interviewed in the study. Though this study was very interesting, I'd be curious to see what the people receiving said paychecks would say about these reefs and the price associated with it.

Unfortunately, I think this hypothetical study would show more or less the opposite of the results seen in the scuba divers' willingness to pay. The reason is perhaps obvious. There's no connection. It is like when people tell you to think about your great-great grandchildren before driving your hummer one block instead of walking. Trying to guilt someone into doing something using a hypothetical scenario is a set-up for failure. Theoretically using someone's family would work because the blood bond is there but at the end of the day, using a family member who doesn't exist yet is comparable to using a stranger, you still choose yourself and your hummer.

What I found most shocking in the paper was that seeing things like sea turtles on their dives increases their desire and willingness to pay to protect the environment. However, the more coral we kill and the warmer the water gets and the increase in acidity of ocean water will decrease the number of turtles thereby decreasing the value of the coral. Here we find yet another cycle that we will probably not be able to get out of.

Jonah M Mackay

The results of this paper were not surprising. Of course people value excellent scuba experiences - of course they enjoy the natural beauty of a place like no other. This does not necessarily mean that they will change their tastes and preferences in order to preserve the character of these place. If it means sacrificing other luxury experiences that they also value - such as resorts or cheap fish prices - consumers may care less and less about reefs until it is too late.

The way around this issue is twofold. Education, certainly, is important. Reef health and the co-dependence of island life and marine life should be stressed, not only to locals and government officials but also to tourists. A main issue is that people may not be aware of the interdependence of life and thus do not realize how their actions may be unsustainable.

Another way is the brilliant method mentioned in class. Mention that using coral reefs is important for some sort of hot-button research (cancer was the example) and people will automatically value it much more, and will flip flop previous opinions to support the maintenance of key coral reefs.

Through education both on the importance of balancing nature, as well as effects outside of the island ecosystem (e.g. research benefits) consumers will begin to change their tastes and potentially will be more amenable to changing behavior in support of local ecosystems.

Rachel Stone

Before even reading this paper, you can predict that scuba divers are going to value protecting the environment. Although the divers value it significantly, as indicated by the statistics presented, this does not translate to any type of protection policy. Like Maddi indicated, asking people to pay now for conservation isn't all that empowering. She had mentioned a hypothetical study looking at the people who receive the paychecks. I think we can agree they likely wouldn't be in favor of sacrificing their own paychecks for conservation. However, I am curious to see how others view the coral reefs and natural beauty that surrounds them. What are the opinions of the people who live in Barbados but maybe don't go scuba diving. Do these people even recognize the economic impact it's having on the country's economy (and thus on them)?

It's clear that people who consistently get utility from diving would want to preserve the dive locations. It's getting the people who don't do it to care. I found it interesting that the sea turtles were such a big draw for these scuba divers. As indicated both by this article and by discussions we've already had in class, it's difficult to set price on something that has no monetary value. But this article does a good job attempting to illustrate exactly what that value is. By asking questions about certain attributes, the researchers were able to focus on what the divers' valued most. This information could be used to make more specific conservation policy that focuses on the highest-valued attributes.

The article was written in 2012, so I'd be interested in seeing if it affected anything. Unfortunately, most people in power today don't take action to preserve the environment. Especially in areas like Barbados that rely significantly on tourism (and thus, the preservation of what draws tourists), more value needs to be placed on the threat of environmental degradation, something that could potentially damage the country's future economic stability.

Austin Hay

I think what Matthew said is interesting. When we look at who are actually making it down to these Scuba places, we surely won’t see a normal income distribution, but rather one probably skewed pretty high. Matthew argues that an increase in fees might not affect many of these divers. A fair point. This is interesting, because maybe this valuation that we all are trying to come to isn’t dependent on the coral being observed or the animals in the area (per the article, the fish diversity, coral cover, etc.), but rather on the demographics of those visiting.

If we are to add a fee for diving to preserve the area, we should try to ‘price discriminate’ by location based on tourists demographics. It might be tempting to make this ‘value’ or fee a function of strictly the quality of the natural sights (coral, etc.). I’d argue it’d be better to set this fee according to the wealth of people visiting there (surely correlated to the quality of the natural sights, but not perfectly). Since so many very high income earners are the ones visiting these sites, we might be able to charge more than the observed willingness to pay without any adverse effects in certain locations, whereas in others we may have to be closer to the measured willingness to pay.

Elizabeth Wolf

The main dichotomy expressed in this paper, as well as the course as a whole, is the idea that while money is scare, so is the environment. Therefore the key to an efficient use of both is an accurate pricing of biodiversity; just because it doesn’t have a price doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. In light of this, natural resources are unique – they are arguably one of the only goods whose preservation today certainly means a higher value in the future. While almost all rival and excludable, i.e. private, goods have unclear future price projections, biodiversity’s price trends in one direction, upward. This is because as population increases and depletion occurs over time, demand increases driving the price up as shown in a simple supply and demand model. However, “there is a short term imbalance between costs of conservation and the immediate gains from activities that deplete and/or degrade the environment” (30, Daily et al. 1997). This short-term imbalance, a skew that can arguably carry on into future time periods, is caused by the problem of asymmetric information. This lack of perfect knowledge of the true costs and benefits of each aspect of the market leads to incorrect valuation of both human development and conservation. Specific to the SCUBA paper, this leads to an undervaluation of the coral reef environment.

Ultimately, the goal is to derive tangible economic benefit from natural resources without depleting them. And yet, as identified in the text, SCUBA divers have “a clear appreciation of, and willingness to pay for, lower levels of site crowding and higher levels of coral quality, fish species diversity and sightings of sea turtles” (34). Therefore, this high willingness to pay should be capitalized upon (no pun intended) to generated funds that can educate citizens on the importance of the ecosystem, explore ways to balance human and abiotic and biotic interaction, and accurately price the environmental resource – a process outlined in the conclusion of the paper.

The answer lies in the appropriate assignment of cost and benefit, though with goods that are as complex, public, and widespread as biodiversity this task is nearly impossible. However, through using non-market valuation techniques – both consumptive and non-consumptive based and education (as addressed in Conservation Reconsidered) the true value of these resources both now and in the future as well as independent and dependent on one another can be estimated. The failure is not in the model of supply and demand and using price as a signal for efficient and utility-maximizing behavior, but rather in the failure to determine an accurate and comprehensive price for the environment in all of its facets.

Morgan Trimas

One of the things I have struggled with since taking Environmental classes has been non-market valuation, its purpose, and the feasibility of its implementation. Namely, how something with priceless inherent value in my mind can be put into monetary terms, and why we would even need to do that. However, this paper and our class discussion today helped to shed some light on my questions. Putting a value, even if it’s a rough estimate, on a non-market good, such as the sea turtles and an aesthetically pleasant diving experience, can level the playing field, to an extent, when making economic decisions. This is because the environmental issues can then be factored into the equation and be considered in the same unit as market goods. By putting a price on environmental goods and services, both used and unused, people can better understand and appreciate them, and that can influence policy-making decisions.
By surveying the divers, it was determined that certain factors, such as more fish species and sea turtles, would enhance their experience. However, one question I have was would the divers still come back to Barbados if there were price increases relative to their declared willingness to pay, given that they are presumably other alternatives, such as other Caribbean islands? With this in mind, it would be an interesting pact to see all the Caribbean islands make an agreement to implement environmentally friendly changes, to prevent this situation and reduce losses to tourism.
Another question I had pertains to the end of the paper on page 34, which states the sea turtles’ “role in mediating sponge-coral interactions have also been recognized but are not yet valued, although their worth is likely to magnify with increasing numbers of animals”. Something I have heard and presumed to be true is that things that are unique and rare attain more value than those that are common. This is not to say that I would not love to see an increase in the sea turtle populations, but more to point out that an increase in populations might not have the same effect on their value as the paper describes. However, I thought it was very interesting how these kinds of studies can use economics to promote conservation and protect environmental welfare, and I would be encouraged to see these kinds of findings being discussed when making policy decisions.

Emily Rollo

I think one of the most of the interesting points in this paper is that divers have a willingness to pay to avoid crowded dive sites, yet less experienced divers enjoy and prefer these crowded sites. I understand why veteran, and usually more affluent, divers enjoy to dive in open spaces without the distraction of other divers. At the same time, I understand the comfort that beginner divers might feel if they dive with other people. The issue with this is how can economists measure the value of certain dive sites? Should the more experienced divers' preferences be valued more? Or should the safety and comfort of other divers be recognized more? I don’t think is a necessarily right or wrong answer to these questions. This means that the value of the dive sites may not ever be accurately defined.

My next reaction to the paper is in line with what Maddi commented on earlier. I was surprised at the overwhelming amount of concern that divers had for sea turtles and their willingness to protect their habitat. It is encouraging that divers want to improve on the protection of the animals, but in order to receive all of the economic gains from this, the people of Barbados should be completely on board too. Students have also previously commented on this. I wonder if economic gains from environmental protection, especially for sea turtles, could be achieved sooner if the nation itself was in agreement with the protection proposals.

Mackenzie Dalton

This paper measuring SCUBA diver's willingness to pay for biodiversity in Barbados can be a valuable tool to convince policy makers to implement laws to conserve natural resources. Measuring and "monetizing" these preferences can be helpful for many people to understand. It is difficult to convey how much people value an object without doing this. As Elizabeth showed, "just because it doesn’t have a price doesn’t mean it’s not valuable." Using stated preferences can be used to show policy makers people's preferences on conserving biodiversity and give it more value.

The way our market and most politics works now is based on short term decisions. People see the initial market value of for example, harvesting wood from a forest, but rarely see the long term environmental effects of clearing a forest. Policy makers need to be aware of these long term effects and make laws that help control and limit these purely short term decisions that are harmful in the long run. Many natural resources are more beneficial in the future. This study can help show policy makers people's preferences for conserving marine biodiversity so they can make more informed decisions on conservation.

Hugh Gooding

In a non-valuation market framework, Schuhmann, Casey, Horrocks, and Oxenford present the current situation in Barbados as a real-world example of the "short-term imbalance between costs of conservation and the immediate gains from activities that deplete and/or degrade the environment." The research reveals that Barbados, like many other popular tourist destinations with exotic natural environments, suffers from a knowledge gap. This knowledge gap prevents Barbados from realizing the true economic value of its rich environment and biodiversity. This study uncovers the fact that tourists, in particular SCUBA divers, will go to great financial lengths because they highly value a particular set of environmental attributes. In saying this, I believe one of the most important and telling takeaways from the paper was the idea that divers do indeed differentiate between levels of quality, and for the more experienced divers, they are willing to pay for higher quality dives with lower levels of site crowding, higher levels of coral quality, fish species diversity, and sightings of sea turtles. By itself, this finding is enough evidence for me to believe that Barbados should take more measures to protect these natural environments. Proper funding and resources aimed at protecting Barbados' natural environments will ensure the longevity of these resources required for SCUBA divers and other tourists to continue spending money to visit the area. The researchers present an example in turtle exploitation, and the fact that there are greater economic gains from eliminating turtle exploitation than there are from allowing "illegal or unsustainable harvest." If Barbados neglects its environment, these natural resources may lose the attributes required to keep tourists returning. It is in their best interest to put forth the initial capital to protect these environments if they hope to continue to economically benefit from them.

Amanda Wahlers

This paper helped highlight the concept we discussed in class that a large part of the usefulness of non-market valuation is that it allows humans to gain insight into the tradeoffs they are willing to make for things that they did not previously consider the relative value of. This is important in a general sense through the power of studies on valuation to motivate policy-makers to support environmental policies that move toward recognition of the true value of currently-undervalued environmental goods. I definitely agree that one of the biggest challenges in this arena, however, is the temporal distance that often exists between immediate costs and benefits that may stretch into the distant future.

As others have mentioned, studies of non-market valuation also allow governments to pinpoint which most-valued or most-valuable characteristics they should focus their conservation on- in this case, perhaps sea turtles that might create a positive feedback loop allowing ecotourism to remain a viable industry and thus a way to fund the environmental protection upon which ecotourism depends. At the same time, in ENV 110, we spent a lot of time discussing how in situations concerning the environment, it is difficult to address specific problems (such as a declining sea turtle population) in isolation; I think this is one of the most significant challenges facing economists and policy-makers: ecosystems are so complex and interdependent that while it might be suggested to try to bolster sea turtle population, this likely won’t be as simple as banning the hunting of sea turtles if at the same time, a vital component of their ecosystem is being destroyed by pollution or ocean acidification.

The numerous agents who influence and are effected by the quality of the natural environment in Barbados make the issue of valuing specific facets of environmental quality extremely difficult because it is often impossible to increase the quality of certain aspects of the environment without increasing others- an attempt to increase sea turtle population to benefit ecotourism might also require policy-makers to take into consideration yet many other valuations of related environmental characteristics that sea turtles need to thrive. This study recognized this environmental interdependence in its choice experiment that compared varying overall levels of environmental conditions.

All of this is not to say that I think that the non-market valuation of environmental resources/quality poses too many challenges to be useful; it is just to say that environmental attributes are not nearly so easy to isolate and calculate the value of as a house with a certain number of bedrooms and that environmental issues pose a lot of unique challenges.

Shlomo Honig

I found this study to be incredibly relevant to contemporary problems of monetizing goods or resources without a price or market. It is also very interesting how, with such a large portion of Barbados’s GDP coming from tourism, a study like this had not been conducted sooner. Charging divers higher fees based on the non-consumptive values derived from their scuba diving, while also informing locals of the benefits of using their attractive coastlines to benefit through tourism, is a crucial step in the conservation of natural habitats and their services. However, it irks me how valuation case studies of important environmental non-market goods (e.g. coral reefs, coastlines) are not translated into action by governments. It seems that sometimes even sound data isn’t enough to trump political agendas or other biases.

I particularly enjoyed reading about the use of a choice experiment in this study to compare people’s valuation of the different attributes of diving, as well as how these values are prioritized. Yet despite its attention to pinpointing which attributes divers value most in order to calculate willingness to pay, this study also raises the issue of distribution in markets once the willingness to pay for these attributes is realized by the diver’s fee. While we think of the extra economic surplus derived from a diver’s fee as a benefit to the local people and the environment, a government that does not adapt to this long-term thinking will quickly exhaust this surplus on more highly prioritized projects, overlooking the most reasonable approach to invest in the principal today to benefit from the interest in the future. As more and more marine environments become degraded from reckless and irresponsible practices worldwide, the value of still-flourishing coastlines will progressively increase, making the non-consumptive value and non-use values of this scarce resource exceed the value of its consumptive uses. And if the government were to “fairly” distribute economic surplus to the coastline citizens, there are only a handful of scenarios under which people would reinvest their money into protecting their coastlines, especially if they could make a pretty penny today by intruding upon the commons and killing turtles to sell rather than preserve them.

Cara Hayes

While I have enjoyed snorkeling in coral reefs, I did not fully understand their economic importance to the islands around them. Besides providing habitats for fish and other sea animals, coral reefs protect and produce white sand for beaches, protect coastlines, and support water tourism activities. If 15% of Barbados's GDP is a direct result of tourism, then coral reefs are extremely important to its economy. Because coral reefs are nonmarket and public goods, it is difficult to determine their indirect use values. I think this research sought to determine the value of coral reefs in the best way possible- trying to understand how people view the reefs. Because value is determined by people, not by natural law or government, understanding how the people who utilize coral reefs, like SCUBA divers, are willing to pay to preserve them is crucial.

Most people in Barbados probably do not realize how much coral reefs effect their wellbeing while divers who frequent Barbados probably have a greater sense of this. It would be interesting to do a similar study examining how Barbadians value the coral reefs. I think they would have a greater nonuse value than use value. Just knowing the coral reefs existence and will exist for their children to enjoy is probably of great value to the Barbadians.

William Bannister

As is made clear in the article, the survey results show that Scuba divers have a relatively high willingness to pay for optimal diving conditions (i.e. level of crowding, presence of sea turtles, quality of the reef, etc). And as many have picked up on, this makes perfect sense. People want to have the best consumer experience, especially if they are paying high amounts in travel costs etc. for the opportunity to experience it.

However, one aspect of the survey that I don't think has been looked at extensively, is the idea that people's views when taking the survey may differ depending on the situation/location they are in. What I mean by this is, in the nice and sunny, relaxing location of a Barbados holiday, if the average person is asked a question about sea turtle conservation, then its very possible that they care more about that topic at that specific time, especially as the paper specify's that 95% of divers were interviewed after having experienced the wildlife. However, ask the same person the same question when they are sitting at their desk back in London or New York, and is it conceivable to suggest that their opinion may change in relation to how much they care for the benefits of sea turtle/coral reef conservation?

Why I bring this up is because, realistically, in order to bring about a change in conservation techniques for endangered wildlife areas, there has to be a bigger population that care about this subject than solely the people that have experienced it/currently experiencing it. Therefore, I believe that the current level of survey size/results presented by the paper is not of sufficient depth in order to make economic policy decisions from, and thus would require a subsequent follow up survey, ideally directed at people living/working further away from the Barbados beaches.

Ali Norton

“Conservation efforts are frequently seen as costly because they may preclude certain activities that have large immediate financial rewards, whilst the longer term costs associated with species loss and habitat destruction are overlooked in the pursuit of short-term economic gains.”

“Investing in natural capital yields considerable net gains, while underinvestment in conservation efforts exposes ecologically valuable resources to degradation (Wells, 1997), leaving society worse off and often exacerbating rural poverty (TEEB, 2009).”

The paper clearly taps into measuring the real economic value of reefs using non-market valuation. As the results signify that divers are generally willing to pay more for “lower levels of site crowding and higher levels of coral quality, fish species diversity and sighting of sea turtles,” which all contribute to the local site and species conservation, I found it most interesting to consider how crucial this information is for each local tourism industry from the perspective of both the tourism company and local government. As the article expresses, a large amount of the local economies’ GDP comes from the tourism industry; thus, conservation must be an integral factor in the sustainability of the economies’ futures. There seems to exist an obvious solution to halt the environmental degradation caused by the tourism industry by capitalizing on consumers (divers) willingness to pay for conservation. As the paper also specifies, most tourism economies exist in very poor rural areas that are reliant upon the industry. In this way, there should exist an incentive for company’s in the tourism industry to support policy that aims to conserve the ecosystems in which they operate in order to invest in the sustainability of their future business. If the willingness to pay for conservation within these unique ecosystems can be further quantified, winners could include the future health of the ecosystems and consequently the future profitability of the industry and the strength of local (often poor) economies in the future.

Jacob Strauss

I was relatively unfamiliar with NMV techniques before taking this class, but this paper clearly demonstrates the usefulness of it. My home state of Montana generates much of its GDP through tourism, and as a result the protection and valuation of natural resources is an ongoing debate. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (MFWP) has been a backer of NMV for some time now, and these methods are frequently used in regards to the conservation of fisheries across the state. In addition, the reintroduction of wolves to much of the state has brought NMV more into the public view because it's a contentious issue at home. Valuing how much the general public is willing to pay for the protection of wolves is important considering they pose a threat to ranchers across the state. This paper's empirical example of NMV illustrates the value this technique has in other areas of environmental conservation.

Benjamin Bayles

The basic idea discussed in this article is essentially what we discussed in the previous class; natural resources are very difficult to price and therefore are often not accounted in decision making. Unfortunately, just because we do not know how to measure the impact, does not mean that an impact is not being made. The article mentions that these impacts are viewed as an “inevitable ‘cost of doing business.” While some cost is “inevitable” it seems foolish to act without some idea how large these costs can become.(you cannot utilize cost benefit analysis without knowing the cost) No businessman would go into a deal having no idea what his costs would be, yet when we do not account for damage to the environment this is, in essence, what we are doing.

Murray Manley

Often, economists serve as the missing link between scientists and policy-makers, putting the scientific research into practical information that is easily interpreted by lawmakers. In this case in particular, economists seek to place a value on the biodiversity, water clarity, reef quality, etc. in Barbados. Notably, the study was funded by the Barbados Ministry of Tourism, which is indicative of their interest in potentially taking measures to preserve the reef. Earlier research shows that “the level of degradation being experienced by Caribbean coral reefs from anthropogenic activities has been projected to result in losses up to US $300 million per year in net revenues from dive tourism and put to US $140 million per year in reef-associated fisheries by 2015”.

One would hope that these kinds of figures would encourage Barbados to take measures today to prevent further losses tomorrow, especially considering how much Barbados relies on tourism and diving in their economy. Unfortunately, non-market valuation makes this a tricky issue. I would be interested to see if these figures projected in 2012 overstated or understated losses in tourism. Realistically, non-market valuation is a hard thing to make a large group of people understand. Of course when asked, manny people would express interest in saving the reefs or passing a law adding a tax to building hotels on mangroves, yet when these events come to fruition, the majority of people are content as free-riders.

What can be done to help Barbados and other tropical island countries realize the importance of conservation? How can the Barbados government work to enforce laws passed encouraging conservation? The study states that "the willingness to pay for improving coral cover from 15% to 25% is roughly US$41 (ML and CL models) and may be as high as US$62 (LC model, class 1) per 2-tank dive.” In addition, the researchers highlight that Barbados has much to gain from capitalizing on the willingness to pay to conserve. Options for the future could include a permit system for diving, fishing, polluting, etc, as well as working together with other Caribbean countries to come up with a solution that works not only to protect Barbados’s biodiversity, but also that of the Bahamas, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, etc.

Walker Abbott

This was a great example of the concepts of non market evaluation we discussed in class on Tuesday. One of the keys points of this non-market valuation is determining the true recreational and aesthetic values to individuals. This study used surveys regarding willingness to pay and ranking of certain qualities of a scuba dive (coral cover, quality of marine life, crowding). The sample population of this study was mostly middle-aged, male, and highly educated, and I think this hits home with a problem that we have been discussing in class. Often those concerned with the environment, biodiversity, and conservation have the means and education to be an active member of our natural world. As members of the W&L community, we are privileged enough to have these conversations about the environment and access to the information needed to make well-informed decisions. Lower-income families are simply trying to make ends meet and are often unaware of environmental issues or feel unable to participate in conservation. I think it is helpful to do non market valuation studies with this type of sample group but ultimately I think we must start to consider the entire range of demographics. The higher income sample probably has a TEV non-consumptive use, but perhaps a lower income sample group would have a option or existence nonuse value.

Coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world and are a great indicator of biodiversity. With the warming of our oceans, we are losing coral reefs due to coral bleaching (symbiants of coral, zooxanthella, cannot survive the higher temperatures).This article provided a great example of how we can use the non market valuation of the coral reefs to hopefully provide conservation incentives. If tourism created by coral reefs and SCUBA diving contributes to GDP, I would like to think that some of this revenue could be allotted to studying the preservation of the corals and creating technologies to prevent coral bleaching. I agree with Murray's point above in that this is a great example of combining science, economics, and politics. These disciplines do not always overlap but I think the only way to truly conserve many of our treasured ecosystems is to reach a solution with all three disciplines involved.

Hines Liles

I found this study to be interesting because it placed a value on certain aspects of a form of ecotourism. My immediate it thought is that this kind of study can be used to protect the resources that are involved. The study was able to put a value on 5 different parts of a diver’s experience. I imagine that that value could be used to find ways to improve the dive. We see this all the time. For example, I am a duck hunter. Every year I am buy a duck stamp in order to legally hunt. That the money from that duck stamp is then put towards conservation. Having to pay that extra $15 (on top of the hunting license) did not deter me from hunting. Other examples are park entrance fees. Likewise, the data compiled in this study shows the value that people are already willing to pay for an enjoyable diving experience. What extra value would be paid to preserve those ecotourism resources?

Alison Peacock

After reading the title of this paper, “Recreational SCUBA divers’ willingness to pay for marine biodiversity in Barbados”, I was not surprised that divers value protecting the environment. Their recreational activities are closely intertwined with bio diversity and a healthy marine ecosystem. The difference of preferences between experienced and unexperienced divers is also unsurprising. I would assume that unexperienced divers feel more comfortable around other divers, and as your skill level increases, you are willing to forgo other divers in order to have a more independent experience. Emily made a good point on how one should compare the value of these two preferences. Is there a concrete way to decide whose preferences matter more? Experienced divers would be more willing to pay more to have less crowded dives, so it may be ideal to make certain dive sites only open to divers with a certain level of experience. These dive sites could be more expensive because divers with high skill levels are willing to pay the cost of optimal conditions.

I also wonder if the amount of divers in Barbados is big enough to have an effect on the conservation of marine biodiversity. Though the study showed that divers are willing to pay higher costs to have optimal diving conditions, is this willingness enough to encourage policy changes? Divers are still willing to pay for the current diving conditions, so there may be no real push for improvement at the moment. Conservation policy makers need to make this study and other similar studies more known to the public, so they too can begin to understand the opportunity at hand. I believe this ties back to the idea of improving education. The general population needs to understand what cost comes with environmental degradation. By getting this information out there, it will increase the opportunity of gaining support on conservation policy.

Ashby Gatens

Given that this paper was written in 2013, I would be interested to find out just how much this study, and those like it, have truly influenced environmental conservation effort in Barbados. While the notion that SCUBA divers would enjoy biodiversity on their dives, this study certainly provides even more compelling evidence than common since. However, when it comes to implantation of policies such as raising the price her dive, the clearly correct plan does not always come to fruition because of short sightedness. Raising the price per dive is beneficial for the environment and ultimately the consumer in the long run, however in the short run, it can be difficult to get past the fact that, as we all know from Econ 101, a rise in the price of a good or service causes an increase in quantity demanded of that good or service. While SCUBA divers have shown that they do care about the environment enough to pay extra to protect it in a hypothetical choice experiment, those involved in the SCUBA industry in Barbados, I would assume, would be deterred by the potential decrease in business that would result from the price increases suggesting this paper. Therefore, while I believe this paper does an excellent job in highlighting the important, and consumer valuation of biodiversity, I am interested to see just how big of an impact can be made in practice.

Matt Egan

Though this article was very in depth, I felt it was also accessible to many audiences. As I am not an economics major I did not understand the process but the results were very interesting. Did this article center around divers because they are the largest form of ecotourism for Barbados? I would be interested to see the breakdown of money earned from tourism and what types of tourists bring in what percent of the local economy. I would think the divers could and would pay more for high quality reefs but I also think others benefit. Perhaps a tax on the people who live there would help. If their reef and beaches remain in the same condition and others decline their vacation destination will become even more popular and bring economic gains to them. The consumer side tax is interesting but I wonder if it should be more on the residents as they will benefit economically by having better economic resources.

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