Thesis: Evaluating the impacts of implementing marine protected areas on Western Australian marine recreators using integrated bio-economic modelling
Marine Protected Areas (MPA) offer considerable ecological benefits for marine environments. However, the environmental conditions created by MPAs, including a larger abundance and size of targeted fish species, also create ideal locations for recreational marine users. Divers and snorkelers can observe large and abundant fish, and recreational fishers on the MPA boundary can take advantage of spillover, with enhanced catch rates, and bigger sized fish.
In this study we take focus on MPAs in Western Australia. Using integrated bio-economic modelling we capture the interactions and feedbacks between fish stocks, fishers, and divers/snorkelers. Crucially we incorporate “fishing-the-line” behaviour for recreational fishers to answer the fundamental questions of whether, and under what conditions, the improved catch around MPA’s can offset the costs of displacement. We also aim to determine whether the benefits of MPAs for recreational users can offset the costs imposed to commercial fishermen by the loss of fishing grounds.
Why my research is important
MPAs are a topic of contention amongst marine users, particularly in Western Australia, a state known for its love of the sea. This study will provide evidence of the impacts of MPAs on the welfare of different user groups, enabling a more informed discussion of who bears the costs and who reaps the benefits when implementing MPAs. Of particular interest is whether the benefits can outweigh the costs, and therefore whether MPAs can be justified for the enhancement of marine uses alone, without needing to consider difficult to measure existence values.
Our findings will also assist policy makers in designing MPAs that can deliver win-win scenarios for recreational fishers and conservation (or at least minimise losses) easing the political tension between policy makers, recreational fishermen and conservation groups.