Tourism is a financing mechanism considered by many donor-funded marine conservation initiatives. Here we assess the potential role of visitor entry fees, in generating the necessary revenue to manage a marine protected area (MPA), established through a Global Environmental Facility Grant, in a temperate region of Chile. We assess tourists’ willingness to pay (WTP) for an entry fee associated to management and protection of the MPA. Results show 97 % of respondents were willing to pay an entrance fee. WTP predictors included the type of tourist, tourists’ sensitivity to crowding, education, and understanding of ecological benefits of the MPA. Nature-based tourists state median WTP values of US$ 4.38 and Sun-sea-sand tourists US$ 3.77. Overall, entry fees could account for 10–13 % of MPA running costs. In Chile, where funding for conservation runs among the weakest in the world, visitor entry fees are no panacea in the short term and other mechanisms, including direct state/government support, should be considered.
The impact of marine ecotourism on reef predators is poorly understood and there is growing concern that overcrowding in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) may disturb the species that these areas were established to protect. To improve our understanding of this issue, we used acoustic telemetry to examine the relationship between human activity at the Molokini Marine Life Conservation District (MLCD) and the habitat use of five reef-associated predators (Caranx melampygus, Caranx ignobilis, Triaenodon obesus, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos, and Aprion virscens). During peak hours of human use, there was a negative relationship (R2 = 0.77, P < 0.001) between the presence of bluefin trevally (Caranx melampygus) and vessels in subzone A. No other species showed strong evidence of this relationship. However, our results suggest that during this time, the natural ecosystem function that the reserve was established to protect may be compromised and overcrowding should be considered when managing MPAs.
Shark-diving is part of a rapidly growing industry focused on marine wildlife tourism. Our study aimed to provide an estimate of the economic value of shark-diving tourism across Australia by comprehensively surveying the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus), and reef shark (mostly Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos and Triaenodon obesus) diving industries using a standardised approach. A socio-economic survey targeted tourist divers between March 2013 and June 2014 and collected information on expenditures related to diving, accommodation, transport, living costs, and other related activities during divers’ trips. A total of 711 tourist surveys were completed across the four industries, with the total annual direct expenditure by shark divers in Australia estimated conservatively at $25.5 M. Additional expenditure provided by the white-shark and whale-shark-diving industries totalled $8.1 and $12.5 M for the Port Lincoln and Ningaloo Reef regions respectively. International tourists diving with white sharks also expended another $0.9 M in airfares and other activities while in Australia. These additional revenues show that the economic value of this type of tourism do not flow solely to the industry, but are also spread across the region where it is hosted. This highlights the need to ensure a sustainable dive-tourism industry through adequate management of both shark-diver interactions and biological management of the species on which it is based. Our study also provides standardised estimates which allow for future comparison of the scale of other wildlife tourism industries (not limited to sharks) within or among countries.
Scuba diving tourism has the potential to be a sustainable source of income for developing countries. Around the world, tourists pay significant amounts of money to see coral reefs or iconic, large animals such as sharks and manta rays. Scuba diving tourism is broadening and becoming increasingly popular, a novel type of scuba diving which little is known about, is muck diving. Muck diving focuses on finding rare, cryptic species that are seldom seen on coral reefs. This study investigates the value of muck diving, its participant and employee demographics and potential threats to the industry. Results indicate that muck dive tourism is worth more than USD$ 150 million annually in Indonesia and the Philippines combined. It employs over 2200 people and attracts more than 100,000 divers per year. Divers participating in muck dive tourism are experienced, well-educated, have high incomes, and are willing to pay for the protection of species crucial to the industry. Overcrowding of dive sites, pollution and conflicts with fishermen are reported as potential threats to the industry, but limited knowledge on these impacts warrants further research. This study shows that muck dive tourism is a sustainable form of nature based tourism in developing countries, particularly in areas where little or no potential for traditional coral reef scuba diving exists.
Although critical tools for protecting ocean habitats, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are sometimes challenged for social impacts and conflicts they may generate. Some conflicts have an economic base, which, once understood, can be used to resolve associated socioenvironmental problems. We addressed how the fish trade in an MPA that combines no-take zones and tourist or resident zones creates incentives for increased fisheries. We performed a value chain analysis following the fish supply and trade through interviews that assessed consumer demand and preference. The results showed a simple and closed value chain driven by tourism (70% of the consumption). Both tourists and local consumers preferred high trophic level species (predators), but the former preferred large pelagics (tuna and dolphinfish) and the latter preferred reef species (barracuda and snapper). Pelagic predators are caught with fresh sardines, which are sometimes located only in the no-take zone. Pelagic species are mainly served as fillet, and the leftover fish parts end up as waste, an issue that, if properly addressed, can help reduce fishing pressure. Whereas some of the target species may be sustainable (e.g., dolphinfish), others are more vulnerable (e.g., wahoo) and should not be intensively fished. We advise setting stricter limits to the number of tourists visiting MPAs, according to their own capacity and peculiarities, in order to avoid conflicts with conservations goals through incentives for increased resource use.
Global coral reef related tourism is one of the most significant examples of nature-based tourism from a single ecosystem. Coral reefs attract foreign and domestic visitors and generate revenues, including foreign exchange earnings, in over 100 countries and territories. Understanding the full value of coral reefs to tourism, and the spatial distribution of these values, provides an important incentive for sustainable reef management. In the current work, global data from multiple sources, including social media and crowd-sourced datasets, were used to estimate and map two distinct components of reef value. The first component is local “reef-adjacent” value, an overarching term used to capture a range of indirect benefits from coral reefs, including provision of sandy beaches, sheltered water, food, and attractive views. The second component is “on-reef” value, directly associated with in-water activities such diving and snorkelling. Tourism values were estimated as a proportion of the total visits and spending by coastal tourists within 30 km of reefs (excluding urban areas). Reef-adjacent values were set as a fixed proportion of 10% of this expenditure. On-reef values were based on the relative abundance of dive-shops and underwater photos in different countries and territories. Maps of value assigned to specific coral reef locations show considerable spatial variability across distances of just a few kilometres. Some 30% of the world's reefs are of value in the tourism sector, with a total value estimated at nearly US$36 billion, or over 9% of all coastal tourism value in the world's coral reef countries.
The increase in demand for nature-based tourism brings economic and educational benefits but risks the introduction of invasive species. Increasing the length of tourist trips can better balance these benefits and risks by maintaining revenues while reducing the number of unique contacts with tourists. Changing the relative prices of trips can induce tourists to take longer trips. We hypothesized that providing information about the negative externalities of tourism could improve the effectiveness of such pricing strategies.
We administered one of two discrete choice surveys to tourists considering a trip to the Galapagos. One of the surveys described the Galapagos as a fragile ecosystem susceptible to invasive species; the second described it as a standard nature-based destination. For each sample, we estimated the probability of the tourist choosing a short versus long trip, given the tourist's personal information and trip options presented to him. We then simulated the demand for trips using three pricing strategies. We found that providing information on invasive species significantly increased the efficacy of strategic pricing. We propose using a two-prong approach to tourism management: educate potential tourists about the islands’ vulnerabilities, and simultaneously increase the per-day cost of short trips relative to that of longer trips.
Managers of marine protected areas (MPAs) must often seek ways to allow for visitation while minimizing impacts to the resources they are intended to protect. Using shipboard observers, we quantified the “zone of disturbance” for Kittlitz’s and marbled murrelets (Brachyramphus brevirostris and B. marmoratus) exposed to large cruise ships traveling through Glacier Bay National Park, one of the largest MPAs in North America. In the upper reaches of Glacier Bay, where Kittlitz’s murrelets predominated, binary logistic regression models predicted that 61% of all murrelets within 850 m perpendicular distance of a cruise ship were disturbed (defined as flushing or diving), whereas in the lower reaches, where marbled murrelets predominated, this percentage increased to 72%. Using survival analysis, murrelets in both reaches were found to react at greater distances when ships approached indirectly, presumably because of the ship’s larger profile, suggesting murrelets responded to visual rather than audio cues. No management-relevant covariates (e.g., ship velocity, route distance from shore) were found to be important predictors of disturbance, as distance from ship to murrelet accounted for > 90% of the explained variation in murrelet response. Utilizing previously published murrelet density estimates from Glacier Bay, and applying an average empirical disturbance probability (68%) out to 850 m from a cruise ship’s typical route, we estimated that a minimum of 9.8–19.6% of all murrelets in Glacier Bay are disturbed per ship entry. Whether these disturbance levels are inconsistent with Park management objectives, which include conserving wildlife as well as providing opportunities for visitation, depends in large part on whether disturbance events caused by cruise ships have impacts on murrelet fitness, which remains uncertain.
Marine debris is one of the most significant issues facing oceans worldwide. The sources of this debris vary depending on proximity to urban centres and the nature of activities within an area. This paper examines the influence of tourism in the southern Great Barrier Reef (GBR), and its contribution to litter levels in the region. By conducting beach debris surveys on occupied and unoccupied islands, this study found that debris was prevalent throughout the region with significant differences in material types between locations. The greatest source of debris from publically accessible islands was tourist-related, with this source also influencing debris loads on nearby uninhabited islands. A focus on debris at Heron Island, showed that sites close to amenities had greater levels of tourist-sourced items like cigarette butts. These findings indicate the contribution of tourists to this problem and that working with operators and managers is needed to minimise visitor impacts.
Understanding the underlying causes of SCUBA diver contact with sensitive benthic organisms is critical for designing targeted strategies to address and manage diver impacts. For the marine tourism industry to maintain or expand current levels of recreational diving practices, ecologically sustainable management of dive sites is required. This study surveyed 400 SCUBA divers engaged in recreational diving in the subtropical reefs off eastern Australia. A combination of in-water observational research was conducted, with post-dive questionnaires. Linear regression techniques were employed to identify the variables that correlate the frequency of diver contacts with reef biota. Of the 17 variables tested, nine were found to significantly influence contact frequency. These were: the number of days since a diver's last dive, location of original certification, awareness and understanding of marine park zoning (3 variables), site selection, use of photographic equipment, total number of dives logged and diving depth. These results show that while a diver's long-term and recent experience can play a role, awareness of marine park regulations and unidentified differences in prior training (related to location) are also important, suggesting that education and training may provide viable alternatives to limiting diver access at sensitive locations.