Economic valuation of coral reefs: a case study of the costs and benefits of improved management of Dhigali Haa, a marine protected area in Baa atoll, Maldives
Thesis DisciplineEnvironmental Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Coral reefs are a vital resource in the low-island Republic of Maldives, where the sustainable use of these resources is central to the continued economic success of the country's two largest sectors: tourism and fisheries. This recognition has led to numerous reef conservation and protection activities, including the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). As in many MPAs of the world, those in the Maldives exist only as paper parks: areas protected on paper but not in practice. Despite general recognition of the importance of reef resources, insufficient funds are allocated by government to implement these parks. This situation is compounded by the absence of specific information and detailed understanding by policy makers of the true value and economic benefits of reef resources. This thesis examines the an economic valuation of improved management of MPAs in the Maldives using Dhigali Haa, an MPA in Baa Atoll, Maldives, as a case study. A contingent valuation survey to elicit the willingness to pay of tourists visiting Baa Atoll to see improved management at the MPA was used in estimating the potential benefits. In addition, local community consultations were conducted to understand local perceptions of MPAs and their effectiveness, and to develop a feasible improved management scenario. The local consultations confirmed that Dhigali Haa was not effectively managed, leading to continued illegal use and degradation of the reef. The results of the CV survey revealed support from tourists visiting Baa Atoll to pay for improved management of Dhigali Haa. A one-off conservation fee per visit for all tourists visiting Baa Atoll was preferred over a user fee solely for divers visiting Dhigali Haa. The estimate for the mean WTP for the conservation fee was US$35±5 compared to a mean WTP of US$15±5 for the user fee. Comparisons between the cost of implementing improved management and the benefits gained from tourist fees showed that a conservation fee would be more beneficial than a user fee. The estimated net present value for funding the improved management via a conservation fee was US$8.65 million.