Saturday, November 24, 2018

Measuring the willingness of dive tourists to pay fishers not to fish in a no-take zone

Ecosystems provide an array of direct and indirect services to human populations. In tropical marine areas, such ecosystem services often include food provision (i.e., fishing) and ecotourism (i.e., diving). In cases where there are conflicts between these services – such as where fishers want to fish but divers want to see abundant, biodiverse ecosystems – examining the economics of various alternative policy solutions may be useful.

The various ecosystem services provided by tropical marine areas worldwide – such as food provision through fishing, or ecotourism opportunities through diving – are under increasing use in general. Sometimes such uses are unsustainable or conflict with one another. One way to help ensure the continued provision of ecosystem services is through establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs), where uses are ideally planned and managed with sustainability in mind.

More than 300 km off the coast of Brazil is the small andd gorgeous archipelago of Fernando de Noronha. Around this archipelago is a 26-kmMPA, divided into two zones. One zone, which encompasses 70% of the park, is no-take: fishing is banned but diving is allowed. The other zone is multi-use, allowing fishing, tourism, as well as diving. 

Traditionally the small population of Fernando de Noronha  has relied on fishing for its food and economy, with tuna fishing (by handline) being most common now. However, diving and snorkeling by tourists has boomed in recent years, particularly to see sharks, which also use the inshore waters as an important nursery. With 24,000 divers visiting annually, Fernando de Noronha has become a premier shark tourism destination.

Credit Sophie Bertrand

However, a conflict has arisen between these uses. For about eight months of the year, fishers use the multi-use zone to catch sardines on the wave break, which they use as bait to catch tuna in pelagic waters outside the MPA. But for the remaining four months (the actual period varies from year to year), the waters of the multi-use zone become rough and unsafe, while the waters of the no-take zone remain calm. When the MPA was designed in 1988, it was understood that local fishers would fish in the no-take zone when necessary. But federal legislation in 2000 toughened the no-take zone’s rules and fishers who disagree with the no-take zone have been very vocal in protesting such rules. As a first response, park managers stated that any fishing in the no-take zone could impact the tourism experience by catching sardines the sharks eat and by disturbing juvenile and mating sharks on the shore.

So in the last 3 years we set out to investigate this conflict and possible solutions. In our first study, we showed the economic basis of the conflict, driven by an inflated demand from tourists who want to eat tuna and large pelagic species while on the island. Funny enough, such preferences do not match their consumption when back into their places of origin. Then, given that (unplanned) tourism is part of the problem, we investigated if it could also be part of the solution. In this new phase, we focused on two aspects: 1) estimating how much revenue the local fishers would lose if the no-take zone were strictly enforced year-round, and 2) gauging whether tourists would be willing to pay the fishers not to fish in the no-take zone. If visitors paid an additional BRL 1.20 (USD 0.60) as a daily fee, it would be enough to balance the lost annual revenue of the fishers. (At the time of the study in 2016, the MPA’s daily entrance fee to the no-take zone was BRL 89 [USD 53] for Brazilians and BRL 178 [USD 107] for foreigners. So the proposed additional fee would be relatively minimal.)

We then talked to 579 tourists and we found out that most of them (67-71%) would accept paying a little more if the extra money were given to fishers. Such an alternative was generally perceived as a win-win solution, as it would encompass maintaining fisher income, shark status, and the current economic gains of tourism. Tthe study also broke down the findings according to a number of criteria, showing for example that those tourits that had seen sharks on their visit were less willing to accept the extra payment. 

We understand that, with some adjustment, such payment could fit into an already existent Payment for Ecosystem Services system, varying from state to state, that compensates fishers during closed seasons to support the reproductive period of some species. However, this exercise represents an opportunity to devise solutions with fishers. Perhaps such extra money from tourism could support the transition from a bait-based fishing to a lure-based one, as the youngest and most successful fishers in the island have already started doing.

We conclude by stating that future MPAs should outline clear compensatory mechanisms to support the transition from a resource-consumptive economy to less-consumptive alternatives for those directly affected by conservation. Such transition should be planned together with fishers, as they may be the ones with the best alternatives.

Most of the text was extracted from MarXiv:
Sources: Lopes, PFM & Villasante, S. 2018. Paying the price to solve fisheries conflicts in Brazil’s Marine Protected Areas. Marine Policy, 93:1-8
Lopes et al. 2017. Tourism as a driver of conflicts and changes in fisheries value chains in Marine Protected Areas. Journal of Environmental Management 200: 123-134