Recreational boaters value biodiversity: The case of the California Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
Marine ecosystems provide a range of valuable services, some of which come with market prices to quantify value and others for which markets have not set prices. Lacking perfect information, policy makers are at risk of undercounting non-priced values and services, leading to biases in policy decisions in favor of services valued through markets. Furthermore, understanding users’ valuation of specific site attributes, such as marine biodiversity, can contribute to effective policy decisions. This paper presents a non-market valuation of private recreational boaters (PRBs) in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary located in California, USA, using data from an intercept survey conducted in 2006 and 2007. A Random Utility Model is used to estimate PRBs’ daily trip values and the importance of specific site attributes. The average consumer surplus was estimated at $48.62 per trip, with a total non-market value of non-consumptive private recreational boating of $86,325 annually. PRBs show a preference for visiting locations with lower exposure to prevailing winds and greater species richness and abundance, which to the authors’ knowledge is the first time that PRBs have been found to value biological diversity in site choices. Furthermore, this suggests that improved biodiversity and productivity of marine ecosystems contribute to better recreational experiences. The results from this study reveal the importance of including non-market services and stakeholder's preferences into policy decisions.