Artificial reefs and marine protected areas: a study in willingness to pay to access Folkestone Marine Reserve, Barbados, West Indies
Artificial reefs in marine protected areas provide additional habitat for biodiversity viewing, and therefore may offer an innovative management solution for managing for coral reef recovery and resilience. Marine park user fees can generate revenue to help manage and maintain natural and artificial reefs. Using a stated preference survey, this study investigates the present consumer surplus associated with visitor use of a marine protected area in Barbados. Two hypothetical markets were presented to differentiate between respondents use values of either: (a) natural reefs within the marine reserve or (b) artificial reef habitat for recreational enhancement. Information was also collected on visitors’ perceptions of artificial reefs, reef material preferences and reef conservation awareness. From a sample of 250 visitors on snorkel trips, we estimate a mean willingness to pay of US$18.33 (median—US$15) for natural reef use and a mean value of US$17.58 (median—US$12.50) for artificial reef use. The number of marine species viewed, age of respondent, familiarity with the Folkestone Marine Reserve and level of environmental concern were statistically significant in influencing willingness to pay. Regression analyses indicate visitors are willing to pay a significant amount to view marine life, especially turtles. Our results suggest that user fees could provide a considerable source of income to aid reef conservation in Barbados. In addition, the substantial use value reported for artificial reefs indicates a reef substitution policy may be supported by visitors to the Folkestone Marine Reserve. We discuss our findings and highlight directions for future research that include the need to collect data to establish visitors’ non-use values to fund reef management.