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Economic valuation of coral reefs: a case study from Baa Atoll

Coral reefs are a vital resource in the Maldives, where the sustainable use of these resources is central to the continued economic success of the country. Numerous reef conservation and protection activities that have been initiated include the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). As in many MPAs of the world, those in the Maldives exist only as paper parks. Despite general recognition of the importance of reef resources, insufficient funds are allocated by the government to manage 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 study examines the potential economic value of improved management of MPAs in the Maldives using Dhigali Haa, in Baa Atoll, as a case study. A contingent valuation survey to elicit the willingness to pay of tourists visiting Baa Atoll to see improved management at 3. Your email address: mizna.mohamed@mnu.edu.mv 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.

Part 1: Research objective and design

Part 2: Findings from local consultation

Part 3: Willingness to Pay (WTP)

Part 4: Cost-benefit analysis

Part 5: Questions and Answers

Further Reading

  • Allison, W. R. (1996). “Snorkeler damage to reef corals in the Maldive Islands.” Coral Reef, 15, 215-218.
  • Allison, W. R. (2005). “Baa Atoll, Maldives: Some Observations by William Allison.” Unpublished report, 2.
  • Anderson, R. C., and Hafiz, A. (1995). “Status of tuna research and data collection in the Maldives.” In: 6th Expert Consultation on Indian Ocean Tunas, Indian Ocean Tuna Commission., Colombo.
  • Anderson, R. C., and Waheed, Z. (1999). “Management of shark fisheries in the Maldives.” In: Case studies of the management of elasmobranch fisheries, R. Shotton, ed., Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome.
  • Bers, A. V. (2005). “Biodiversity Assessment for Maldives’ Baa Atoll: Baseline Information for UNDP’s Atoll Ecosystem-Based Conservation Programme.” Ministry of Environment, Energy and Water, Mal., Maldives, 47.
  • Domroes, M., (2001). “Conceptualising state-controlled resort islands for an environment-friendly development of tourism: The Maldivian experience.” Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 22(2), 122-137.
  • Freeman, A. (2003). “Economic Valuation: What and Why?” In: A Primer on Jon market Valuation, P. A. Champ, K. J. Boyle, and T. C. Brown, eds., Kluwer Academic Publishers, The Netherlands, 1-26.
  • Ghina, F. (2003). “Sustainable Development in Small Island Developing States: The Case of the Maldives.” Environment, Development and Sustainability, 5(1-2), 139-165.
  • Greenley, D. A., Walsh, R. G., and Young, R. A. (1981). “Option Value – Empirical-Evidence from a Case-Study of Recreation and Water-Quality.” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 96(4), 657-673.
  • Gunette, S., Chuenpagdee, R., and Jones, R. (2000). “Marine Protected Areas with an Emphasis on Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples: a Review.” Fisheries Centre Research Reports 8(1), University of British Columbia Canada.
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  • Ministry of Environment and Construction. (2005). State of the Environment: Maldives, 2004, Ministry of Environment and Construction, Maldives.
  • Ministry of Home Affairs, Housing and Environment. (2001). First National Communication to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UJFCCC), Ministry of Home Affairs, Housing and Environment Mal.’, Maldives.
  • Mitchell, R. M., and Carson, R. T. (1989). Using Surveys to Value Public Goods: the Contingent Valuation Method, Resources for the Future, Washington D.C.
  • Moberg, F., and Folke, C. (1999). “Ecological goods and services of coral reef ecosystems.” Ecological Economics, 29, 215-233.
  • Mosqueira, I., C.t., I. M., Jennings, S., and Reynolds, J. D. (2000). “Conservation benefits of marine reserves for fish populations.” Animal Conservation, 4, 321–332.
  • Ministry of Tourism. (2003). “Review and Recommendations: Maldives Tourism Master Plan 1996-2005.” Ministry of Tourism, Maldives.
  • Ministry of Tourism. (2005). “Tourist Opinion Survey Report 2004.” Ministry of Tourism, Maldives, 73.
  • Marine Protected Areas System. (2001). “National Listing of Potential Sites for Protected Area Establishment.” Maldives Protected Areas.
  • Riopelle, J. M. (1995). “The Economic Valuation of Coral Reefs: A Case Study of West Lombok, Indonesia,” Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
  • Roberts, C. M., and Polunin, V. C. (1993). “Marine Reserves: Simple Solutions to Managing Complex Fisheries.” Ambio, 22(6), 363-368.
  • Salih, A. (2000). “Divers’ Perceptions Maldives,” University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
  • Sattar, S. A., and Adam, M. S. (2005). “Review of Grouper Fishery of the Maldives with additional notes on the Faafu Atoll Fishery.” Marine Research Centre, Mal., Maldives.
  • United Nations Development Programme. (2004). “Project Document: Atoll Ecosystem-Based Conservation of Globally Significant Biological Diversity in the Maldives’ Baa Atoll.” United Nations Development Programme and Government of Maldives, 179.

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