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01/29/2016

Comments

Sierra Tamm

I think that this type of non-market valuation is really interesting. The choice experiment (CE) method seems to accurately represent the preferences in environmental characteristics of the dive sites in the Barbados. What struck me the most while reading this paper was the conclusion regarding preserving sea turtles. The concept of sea turtle harvest is totally foreign to me. Growing up in Southwest Florida I have a distinct memory of eating at a restaurant on the beach with my family and once it was dark the restaurant turned off the lights facing the ocean because it was sea turtle hatching season and they did not want the baby sea turtles to be confused by the artificial lights. How is it that in one country we are willing to sacrifice some of our comforts to help the turtles, while in other countries along the same body of water, they are harvesting turtles? In an ideal world, I think there would be global restrictions on things like sea turtle harvesting because they have such a large migratory pattern that the sea turtles being protected in the Gulf of Mexico might then be killed farther south. This would have an impact on the tourist economies and biodiversity of countries throughout the surrounding area. Hopefully, as research like this is published, there will be stricter laws in countries that still have high rates of sea turtle harvesting.

Spencer Payne

This paper carefully considers many factors that contribute to SCUBA divers’ willingness to pay for marine biodiversity. The authors go to great lengths to identify that divers, in general, are prepared to pay more for reef attributes than they are currently being charged.

By identifying statistically significant relationships within their sample, they are largely successful. This paper therefore suggests that increasing diver fees in areas where tourism is a major foreign exchange earner could help countries like Barbados capture previously forgone economic surplus and generate funds to help slow their reefs depletion. But while I take no issue with the former suggestion, I do not necessarily agree with the latter. I think more questions must be answered before I can be convinced that increasing diver fees will lead to increased economic surplus.

One question that I believe must be considered originates from the fact that, according to theory, raising the price of SCUBA diving will decrease the number of people who choose to do so. This result would have both positive and negative effects on economic surplus. On one hand, by fewer people going diving, marine biodiversity will deteriorate at a slower rate — a positive for conservationists and divers alike. While on the other, fewer divers would result in lower tourism revenue in countries like Barbados and create a drag on its GDP. So is raising diving costs, as this paper suggests, a good idea, given that we cannot be sure that the environmental benefits gained from higher diving costs overshadow inevitable revenue losses?

A second question that I believe must be asked is: what percentage of revenue generated by SCUBA diving can be attributed to locals (i.e. people who live within an x mile radius of a reef)? Learning that information would be valuable because that would help determine the degree to which the sample in this paper reflects diver preferences. Nearly 80% of the survey consisted of vacation travelers. Therefore, if we know that, say, 40% of divers are local to the area, this sample would suggest policy implications that may not necessarily be optimal for the population. For if we assume that locals have a lower willingness to pay for diving than travelers and we determine that 40% of divers are locals, increasing diving price would likely have a more jarring impact on countries with jurisdiction over marine biodiversity than this paper suggests. Besides, I imagine that it would be difficult for a country to justify a policy that would render SCUBA diving prohibitively expensive to its citizens.

Owen Brannigan

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. The reason I took this class is because I think that non-market valuation of environmental resources is something I'd like to pursue and I thought that this report was a great way for me to explore that. I thought that the article was easy to read and that it offered a very good view of the role of biodiversity in keeping recreational SCUBA diving. I find the complexity and depth of these sorts of studies to be incredibly interesting and I'd like to see a study with a more recent study to see how these trends have continued during the common era. It seems that the environmental problems of the current time could make this problem a lot worse. The conclusion followed with what I would have thought as well.

Ryan Ellis

As many have previously mentioned, the fact that SCUBA divers have high willingness to pay for less crowding and higher coral cover is pretty obvious, especially considering the selected divers were on average fairly experienced divers (>6 yrs of experience). What interested me most was the differentiation between coral cover and crowded diving areas. What the article seemed to dismiss is that these factors are directly related. More coral cover provides more space for divers to explore the reefs, unless there are highly active areas that divers visit more often and in greater numbers. Furthermore, as the article mentions, less experienced divers generally prefer there to be more crowded diving spots because they feel more comfortable with more experienced divers around them. If the primary issue surrounding these reefs is to raise tourist attraction, wouldn't having a larger number of divers, especially new divers, generate economic growth? As counter intuitive as it sounds, If this is the case, then one could argue that more crowded reefs, regardless of coral cover, would be positive.

This is a very specific study, sampling a small population of experienced divers that have been visiting Barbados for years. Although the results were statistically and economically significant, what may augment the results is a survey asking individuals how they value the existence or option of visiting Barbados. This will provide an accurate economic summary of how possible future tourists value these reefs.

Benie Bolohan

There are two main ideas that came to my mind as I read the article. The first is that people often exclude the tradeoff between restoration and prevention. Obviously, for environmental reasons, prevention seems ideal. That being said, it is something that I feel often gets ignored because it is future-based rather than current. For this reason, I do not believe it is considered in the economics side of this argument. The second point I thought of was that people traveling to places like Barbados would very likely be willing to pay more to participate in activities such as scuba diving.

My first point, regarding the prevention versus restoration matter, is simply that I believe people to be fairly short-sighted. Based off the trends I've both noticed and read about, it seems that many people only see the current issues and ignore many important future considerations. People value the current issues over those of the future. It is reasonable to do so, one could justify, simply because the present situation is something that must be dealt with in the present whereas the future is insecure and often unpredictable. That being said, it does not seem too far-fetched to say that if we continue to ignore the environment, or do little to help improve its situation, then other things will be effected too. For example, something we discussed last class was that islands like Barbados depend on tourism and raising the prices for activities could potentially harm the economy. To me, there is also the flip argument that if we do not limit our ecological footprint, there will be less biodiversity or "exotic," cool things to see and tourism will die on its own. Either way, the economy will suffer; however, if we look in the short-term continuing as we are seems better. In the long-term, changing our behavior, limiting visitors, increasing prices, spending money on protection measures is better.

My second point is that people spending so much on travel to be in places such as Barbados would likely be willing to pay more to scuba dive. Put simply, if you spend $500 on a plane ticket and $500 for a nice resort, an extra $10 or $20 to scuba dive does not seem unreasonable. On Tuesday we discussed relative prices. A $10 increase in scuba diving might be a 10% or more increase from the previous price, but I think that is the wrong "relative price" at which to look. The true relative price is more accurately depicted in a comparison of the price increase to the cost of travel. So the $10 increase in scuba diving is only a 1% increase in comparison to the travel costs. For this reason, I do not believe increasing the prices of scuba diving would actually cause a significant decrease in tourism--especially if it resulted in an improved scuba experience.

Mitchell Brister

The paper does a great job of quantifying and showing the economic value of biodiversity in Barbados. Through non-market valuation techniques, we can see the value of the coral reefs. We can also use reasoning from the paper to think about the importance of all kinds of different environmental areas. An issue that continues to bother me when thinking about this paper and others like it is the bottle neck that is big company’s influence in politics. Like Professor Casey said in class, I forget the country, but that in many other countries scientific research is read and digested and acted on. In the US it feels like the money of big company’s is all that is acted on. Much like in the situation with the Cuban coral reefs, I have a bad feeling that if a cruise ship business or oil drilling company finds the area that is to be protected important and valuable, that politicians will be more inclined to side with them. Especially when the company’s are able to promise thousands of jobs, and any sort of policy to protect the environment is labeled as some sort of left granola policy. Even when the economics of the situation account for the efficient amount of environmental resource. I really hope that there is some sort of chance in politics so that people can see that a conservation of the environment doesn’t always have to come at the direct expense of growth like is perceived by many.

Katherine Pranka

I think this article was fascinating, as I think it is very important to assign values to goods and services that do not have a face dollar value. I think it is worth it to invest in things like coral reefs and rain forests, because they all have value to someone, although some more than others. Also, the people who really want to experience things like scuba diving are more likely to pay more if it means that it will be pretty. Many people do not want to go to certain foreign countries because they believe that it is dirty. Places like China or India, where the air and water are polluted respectively, might drive people away, and therefore the town or country is losing income from tourists. It would be a good idea to raise the prices for the good, and that way, the raises in the price and can be absorbed by the town. I think that putting the value on things that generally don't have values is smart, because then the government can help by absorbing some of the costs and raising the value of the resource.

Yishu Liu

I thought the article was very interesting. I have never been scuba diving but have always wanted to. The article does a really good job of driving home the point that conservation is good environmental policy. One of the benefits of a healthy coral reef mentioned in the article is protection against shoreline erosion. Another way that we can see the benefits of conservation is through its indirect link to the economy of Barbados. With an economy that is heavily based on tourism, Barbados need their beaches. It is the photos of beautiful beach that makes people want to visit and promote the island nation. As time goes on, some areas of beaches get more eroded than others, and the sand is carried down the shore to somewhere else. For Barbados, protecting their beach should be a priority to the government. Since coral reefs can help slow down shoreline erosion, I think preserving the reef should be of greater importance. The money spent on conserving coral reefs is most likely less than the money that the Barbados government will have to spend on rebuilding beaches and transporting sand. The U.S. government is faced with beach erosion in many coastal regions today. Each year, large amounts of money is spent in stabilizing shorelines, finding new techniques that will prevent the movement of sand, and bringing sand onto beach for recreational use. There are a lot of beach houses that face erosion and devaluation in property price due to shifting coasts. If there were coral reefs in those regions that could prevent or slow the sand movement, I am sure people would pay large sums of money to protect their properties and interests.

Mamie Smith

This whole study was interesting to read through because I've always wondered exactly how certain statistics were calculated/economic determinations made in order to end up with final public policy based on solid enough reasoning. It all shows, with so much more clarity, how economists compare costs and benefits of tradeoffs concerning environmental goods and services with no market value by actually determining a economic value for them. Still, of course, much of the specifics about the setup of the study and calculation procedures did go over my head (like the modeling/the 3 types of logits and controlling of irrelevant factors). It would be enlightening to study the statistics more to better understand where the value for the coral reefs came from and how to plan similar studies.

It makes me think of the point that this study provides a nice basis for similar studies in the future. How many studies to determine value of non-market goods have, in fact, been done? More studies certainly need to be done. I would hope that they have at least been done in places with critical and controversial environmental issues, like West Virginia, where there is much valuable biodiversity yet also much needed and dependable coal. So many of those valuable species and habitats in that special area in the world are quickly disappearing. Even though the studies must be greatly expensive (how expensive, I wonder?), it would help us get so much closer to better decisions, a better world, and even a better economy.

Also, how much relevant public policy has been enacted after studies like this? I would hope that regulations have been put in place in Barbados to better protect the coral reefs and thus to better uphold/strengthen their economy. Afterward, even though some beach-goers and fishers might be upset that they may no longer to enjoy the the benefits of the ocean and the reefs, the reefs would be better preserved, and the economy would actually prosper more with more divers, etc. because of it.

I know the article mentioned at one point that the overall goal (the idea of a perfect solution) would be to "promote uses [of the environment] that enhance human well-being in near term and that are compatible with long-term conservation objectives." This idea reaching toward sustainability and efficiency sounds like it would please as many sides of the issue as possible and provide as many benefits and as few costs as possible, especially while focusing on time (short-term and long-term). It still doesn't seem like the optimal solution (especially for the environment) since it does of course focus on human well-being and short-term benefits (which commonly cause environmental destruction), but at least there is also some focus on long-term costs and benefits (to compromise with future generations in the future world). Progress step-by-step is so much better than no progress at all.

Lilly Grella

Just as many before me have pointed out, the paper turned out exactly how I expected. Divers were willing to pay a bit more per dive to preserve the experience of the dive. It just makes sense. It was interesting to see the calculation and experimentation processes used to come up with a value to this preservation, and to understand where the final answer with a monetary value came from. Now that I know from the study that divers would be willing to pay an extra $20-$57, what can I do with that knowledge and those numbers? Can non-market valuation actually be implemented and ultimately save the coral reefs and increase biodiversity in the Caribbean and beyond? I definitely didn’t expect this purely experiment based paper to answer these questions, they are very involved questions and this is a very mathematical and scientific piece. However, I ended this paper feeling uncomfortable with the knowledge gained. The authors conclude saying we can enact the findings: increase the diver fees. Is it really this easy? I really hope people/policy makers are responsive to studies like this that hold vital information oftentimes unavailable. I will leave with this question: has anything come of this study over the past three years and if not, are there any successful stories of non market valuation achieving greatness?

Matt Parker

I thought this article did an excellent job detailing how non-market valuations play a very real role in figuring out optimal courses of actions as they relate to the economy and the environment. One issue I have in the choice experiment however, is that it is very difficult for a diver post-dive to accurately value how much various aspects of the dive meant to them in a hypothetical scenario. I know in class we talked about having the survey taker be aware of the hypothetical bias, but that's about it in mitigating that factor.
I know earlier in the comments was a mention of price discriminating using data on demographics and income for various dive sites, but then I think you run into the problem of divers just substituting an expensive dive site with high biodiversity and coral cover for a cheaper site with medium biodiversity and coral cover. This substitution then has a negative effect on the places trying to maintain high biodiversity at the cost of higher prices.

Oliver Nettere

As a biology & enviro major I am quite familiar with research papers that promote conservation through empirical data. However, this paper promotes conservation using economic analysis, something that some arguments for conservation of resources often leave out. The valuation of the resource is vital if it is to be considered for protection by its stakeholders. Without an explicit price, as this paper points out, these resources are often undervalued and as a result, degraded. This research found that dive-tourists to Barbados are willing to pay for an increase in biodiversity, lower levels of crowding at dives sites, and high-quality corals. This fact demonstrates reefs are an asset to locals and should be protected as such. Further, economic incentives for protecting coral reefs should be considered through their increased valuation which will allow an increase in diver fees. These diver fees could be used to support the local economy and promote the protection of the reefs. Compensation could be provided to local fisherman who choose to harvest less fish which would increase fish abundance and diversity. The rate-hike in diver fees would also allow dive businesses to take less clients which would limit crowding at popular sites and reduce physical anchor and diver damages to the reefs.

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