Preference classes in society for coastal marine protected areas
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are increasingly being used as conservation tools in the marine environment. Success of MPAs depends upon sound scientific design and societal support. Studies that have assessed societal preferences for temperate MPAs have generally done it without considering the existence of discrete groups of opinion within society and have largely considered offshore and deep-sea areas. This study quantifies societal preferences and economic support for coastal MPAs in Wales (UK) and assesses the presence of distinct groups of preference for MPA management, through a latent class choice experiment approach. Results show a general support for the protection of the marine environment in the form of MPAs and that society is willing to bear the costs derived from conservation. Despite a general opposition toward MPAs where human activities are completely excluded, there is some indication that three classes of preferences within society can be established regarding the management of potentially sea-floor damaging activities. This type of approach allows for the distinction between those respondents with positive preferences for particular types of management from those who experience disutility. We conclude that insights from these types of analyses can be used by policy-makers to identify those MPA designs and management combinations most likely to be supported by particular sectors of society.