Using choice models to inform large marine protected area design
During the last decade a number of Large Marine Protected Areas (LMPAs) – marine protected areas that exceed a minimum size threshold and are often in offshore or open ocean waters – have been designated in an effort to meet marine conservation objectives. Research on the human dimensions of LMPAs is limited, though comprehensive policy analysis requires an understanding of the full range of social, cultural and economic benefits associated with LMPA designation. This paper addresses this need by employing a stated preference choice experiment survey of U.S. west coast households to examine public preferences for different protected area designs sited off the U.S. west coast. Using data from over 3000 randomly selected households in California, Oregon, and Washington we estimate choice models and calculate economic values for a suite of LMPAs that vary in size and in the types of restrictions within area boundaries. Results show that the LMPA size yielding the highest value is ~15.6% of the west coast Federal waters. Results also underscore the importance of restriction type, as there are considerably different threshold sizes above which diminishing returns and negative economic values are derived from no-access reserves, no-take, and multiple-use designations. While the value of any specific configuration can be estimated using the model, results offer insight on optimal use designations from a public perspective for small (< 2.5% of west coast Federal waters), medium (2.5%–~10%) and large (> 10%) LMPAs sited off the U.S. west coast.