More on Sea Angling in Ireland

The first couple weeks I was here I wrote what I thought would be the introduction for our paper. At this point we hadn’t yet run the models, so we really did not know what we would find. I believe my supervisor, Dr. Stephen Hynes, had me write this “introduction” as a way for me to familiarize myself with sea angling in Ireland. Some of the many things I learned over the course of my research include: the status of sea angling in Ireland, the history, culture, and development of sea angling in Ireland, the many diverse methods of sea angling in Ireland, the immense lack of regulation and permitting fees, and the myriad of environmental and socio-political issues plaguing sea angling in Ireland. These issues include, but are not limited to: depleting fish stocks, resource allocation between commercial fisheries and anglers, and the lack of monitoring and enforcement. I will save you all from having to read the 5-page single-spaced introduction I meticulously slaved over, but I will highlight some key aspects that I found particularly interesting and relevant.

  1. Bass is the only species that is regulated in Ireland. In the 1970′s bass was commercially targeted, which led to a near collapse of the species. Ireland implemented an environmental bye-law discontinuing any commercial fishing and sale of bass in Ireland. The bye-law also mandates a bag and size limit for recreational anglers; anglers can only catch and keep up to 2 bass within any 24-hour period and there is a closed season from May 15th- June 15th of every year. Though bass have made a significant comeback from their former status as “critically reduced,” it is believed that bass stocks will never mirror “the glory days.”
  2. There is no law banning or any legitimate efforts preventing anglers from targeting critically endangered species such as shark, tope, ray, or skate. Though anglers are encouraged to help skippers tag and return these species alive, there is essentially no oversight to ensure that they are returned alive and unharmed. It is difficult to gauge whether most anglers (not a part of charters) angle in an environmentally conscious manner or not. I assume that they would for the sake of preserving the sport, but images on various forums and blogs depicting Irish anglers with deceased shark and ray suggest otherwise. I think that the group of anglers boasting about said endangered species are definitely in the minority, but the issue needs to be addressed regardless.
  3. Overall, on a global scale, Ireland’s fish stocks are considered to be in relatively good health, but the term “relative” is misleading. According to the UNFAO and “25% of all the world’s fish stocks are either overexploited or depleted. Another 52% is fully exploited, these are in imminent danger of overexploitation (maximum sustainable production level) and collapse. Thus a total of almost 80% of the world’s fisheries are fully- to over-exploited, depleted, or in a state of collapse. Worldwide about 90% of the stocks of large predatory fish stocks are already gone.” Ireland is no exception and more attention needs to be paid to the status of fish stocks in Irish waters.
  4. Ireland has loads of rocky, dangerous coastline and is regularly hit by massive swells. Many anglers enjoy the thrill and challenge of angling under these precarious conditions and will  even enjoy a few too many beers while they’re at it. Every year there are news stories about drunken rocky shore/ surf anglers drowning and getting washed out to sea. There doesn’t appear to be any preventative measures or educational efforts to limit this behavior and horrendous occurrence.  (Warning: I’m going to briefly go on a tangent here because I find it important –> It is also alarming the number of drownings that have occurred during my brief stay here and how many people don’t even know how to swim. Though somewhat unrelated to my summer fellowship, my background as a swimmer and a pioneer to help establish a viable swim program for a low-income community in the Fillmore of San Francisco makes me particularly interested in the excessive frequency of drownings of both sea anglers and non-sea anglers here in Ireland. I think there is a definite need for some sort of red cross/ public funding to both encourage swimming lessons and to make it more available to the public. Ireland puts a lot of funding towards students and people on welfare, but public safety, including water safety has been largely been on the back burner).
  5. Resource allocation of fish between anglers and commercial fisheries is an increasingly heated debate in Ireland, and apparently it’s the driving force behind our study and will be the theme in my re-write of the introduction. Ireland needs to establish that sea anglers do in fact contribute to the economy (via travel cost expenditure) or by showing how much they directly and indirectly affect the economy (IFI’s contingent valuation study) in order to: a) sustain/ maintain the current status of sea angling in Ireland and to b) prevent further exploitation of fish stocks by commercial fisheries.

I could go on for another 500 or so words, but I’ll leave it at that. The above list represents the things that peaked my interest the most.

Galway Bay

Galway Bay Rainbow

Random Utility Model as a Means of Economic Valuation

TCM (travel cost model) and CV (contingent valuation) are the methods most common employed to estimate the value of recreations, particularly for recreational fishing and sea angling; however, a third method, RUM (random utility model) has also been used for recreational valuation. Among  the studies reviewed, RUM was the preferred model when the goal of the study was to distinguish angler preferences (both in terms of fish species and site choice), to predict how decisions regarding resource management, and to establish a willingness to pay for said resources.

The two studies included in my literature review that use RUM to value recreational fishing are Assessing the Value of Recreational Sea Angling in South West England  (Lawrence, 2005) and Economic Valuation of Recreational Fishing in Western Australia (Raguragavan et al., 2009). Both papers designed choice experiments (CE) where the survey “concentrates respondents’ minds on the trade-offs between different attributes of the angling experience” (Lawrence, 2005: 369). Some of the attributes compared include: the number of fish caught, fish size, species preference, water quality and aesthetic appeal, presence vs. absence of a bag limit,  and travel cost- site fees, parking, and bait.

Raguragavan found that fish caught solely for sport for worth a great deal more than fish primarily caught for consumption and that travel cost, catch rates, and coastal length are all statistically significant influences on fishing choice site. Raguragavan et al.’s study (2009) didn’t really unveil anything revelatory. I feel that there choice experiment was too limited, which seriously limited the magnitude and scope of their results.

Lawrence (2005) on the other hand, designed a complex CE that revealed quite a bit about angler preferences in SW England. Lawrence (2005) found that most anglers target a specific species and are willing to pay much more to increase the size and catch rate for their favored species. Lawrence found that Bass and Cod are the preferred species (in SW Englad); anglers are willing to pay 8.46 and 6.35, respectively to increase the number of fish caught by 50%. Lawrence also highlighted species where catch rate becomes pertinent and where the desired catch rate is not currently being met. Currently, the stocks of bass and cod are currently too low and anglers are dissastisfied with their catch rate. Accordingly, Lawrence (2005) suggests that management plans should focus their efforts on increasing bass and cod stocks. Interestingly enough, Lawrence also determined that overall environmental quality only marginally influences site choice, and that anglers do not care how an increase in stocks is achieved (be it a bag/ rod limit, etc.) as long as the amelioration is perceivable.

On the other end of the spectrum, Lawrence also identified determined that mackerel has a willingness to pay of -.61. This negative willingness to pay is both comical and reasonable seeing as my supervisor told me that mackerel are so plentiful in Ireland that little children will wade in the water with plastic bags and scoop up 5+ mackerel with little to no effort. (And due Ireland’s geographic proximity to England, I would bet there are little English children doing the same).

In sum, the random utility model can be very useful for recreational valuation. The results highlight key aspects of the angling experience that are preferred, need improvement, and are in danger. A properly designed RUM model can identify priority management and policy recommendations. The only downside of the RUM model is due the complexity of creating the choice experiment. However, a well-designed CE can result in compelling and insightful results. Another arguable downside is that a RUM model has to be determined prior to beginning research, so one has to choose between collecting data for contingent valuation/ travel cost or RUM. Since our data was collected by Inland Fisheries Ireland, there is no potential for a RUM study in the near future.

Swan in the Lower Corrib River

Swan in the Lower Corrib River

Contingent Valuation: An alternative method to value recreational fishing and the fishing resource

Please note: This blog post is from Week 4. I began it a couple of weeks ago when I was quite busy with work, but am finally able to finish it now that I have a little down time.

This week I’ve been compiling a literature review of all of the existing studies that have used various forms of economic valuation to estimate the value of sea angling. I have come across studies that have used contingent valuation (CV), the travel-cost model (TCM), and the random utility model (RUM). Though CV and TCM are the primary models of choice, RUM has also been used in association with sea angling/ recreational fishing valuation. Since I have already described TCM in great detail, I will attempt to explain the other two methods. I will do my best to describe how each method is used, which model is best suited for providing specific types of data, as well as the pros & cons of each. This blog post, however, will focus exclusively on the CV method.

From my understanding, contingent valuation is commonly used for ecosystem and recreational valuation. CV provides a foundation for estimating the value of a resource and/or recreation as well as estimating peoples’ willingness to pay (WTP) to protect or maintain the current status/ quality of the given resource/ recreation. It can also estimate peoples’ marginal willingness to pay for resources. CV is oftentimes the first method used to estimate the value an ecosystem/ recreation/ ecosystem service (before TCM or RUM studies). The name “contingent” valuation is derived from how CV surveys are framed; people are asked to state their willingness to pay, which is contingent on a hypothetical scenario and/or description of the environmental service provided. For example, Inland Fisheries Ireland’s CV study was based on the following question,”How much would you be willing to pay each year, through general taxation, for the next 10 years, to preserve the current fish stocks and current quality of recreational fishing in Ireland?” 

CV is referred to as a “stated preference” method since it obtains peoples’ stated values/ preferences as opposed to inferring their values, which is what the “revealed preference” methods do (i.e. the RUM model). Since CV relies on how much people say they would pay to protect an environmental resource instead of how much they would actually pay when push came to shove, it can be susceptible to bias. It can also be susceptible to other forms of bias including: strategic bias, embedding affects, and hypothetical bias. One of the studies I included in my literature review completed a CV study of recreational fishing, but took measures to reduce the risk of bias and to negate the existence of bias.

The study is entitled Valuing New Zealand recreational fishing an an assessment of the contingent valuation estimates and was completed by Wheeler & Damania (2011). In the study, they looked at the marginal WTP of each additional fish caught. The ultimate purpose of the study, in part was to determine the value of various fish species in order to compare the value of recreational fish to commercial fish for a proper allocation of the fishing resource. This study is much unlike IFI’s study that uses CV to determine the WTP to protect Ireland’s fish stocks and the quality of the current angling experience; however, it does illustrate the usefulness and and effectiveness of the CV method to value recreational fishing. Once IFI’s CV study is published I will be sure to offer my critiques of their study and provide a summary of how they went about disproving the presence of bias. Until then, here is the only successful example of CV in my literature review and how they approached and disproved the presence of various forms of bias.

Wheeler & Damania (2001) argued that CV was an effective way to estimate the marginal WTP of recreational fishing in New Zealand because it allowed them to determine values for various species of fish (including fish that are caught primarily for sport, for consumption, and fish that are caught both for sport and consumption) and the added value of each additional fish caught. They also argued that contrary to popular belief, CV is a legitimate form of economic valuation, and illustrated this by addressing common forms of bias and how they both mitigated the potential for bias and proved that bias did not compromise the study. The biases they addressed are below:

Strategic bias occurs when people understate their true WTP because they believe they will have to pay a tax/ fee at some point in the future. To test for strategic bias, Wheeler & Damania (2001) asked a follow-up question at the end of the survey: “Do you believe that the government will impose a recreational fishing tax in the next year or so?” They then ran two separate models (one for those who thought a tax would be implemented [17.5% of the total sample] and one for those would did not think a tax would be implemented [82.5% of the total sample]) and then compared the statistical significance of each model. Wheeler & Damania [2001] ultimately found that both models were found to be highly statistically significant and furthermore, the models were comparable in terms of statistical significance. As such, they were able to combine the two samples and infer that their survey did not suffer from strategic bias.

This CV study was also susceptible to embedding effects. Embedding effects can occur CV studies like this one where respondents are asked to estimate how much they would be willing to pay for each additional fish caught. Embedding effects, also referred to as “perfect embedding” occurs when respondents state that they are willing to pay the same amount for goods that differ in quality or different amounts for the same good (Carson & Mitchell 1995). Wheeler & Damania [2001] were able to negate the presence of embedding effects . First, they tested consumers’ WTP for 5 different fish species and discovered substantial differences between the marginal WTP of the various species. Second, they tested different models (one for anglers who caught and kept 4 or more snapper and one for anglers who caught or kept 3 or fewer snapper). They discovered that the marginal WTP was $10.25 for those who caught and kept 3 or fewer fish and $2.94 (Wheeler & Damania, 2001: 611) for those who caught and kept 4 or more fish, indicating that the value fishermen attach to fish are greatly influenced by the number of fish they are able to catch. The difference in attached value for various fish species and number of fish caught disproves the presence of embedding effects.

A third type of bias that can affect any type of CV study is hypothetical bias. Hypothetical bias occurs when respondents are unfamiliar with the product/ resource being valued. Hypothetical bias was invalidated in this case since surveys were conducted at boat ramps and at the end of fishing trips, so the “hypothetical” situation is non-existent.

In sum, Wheeler & Damania (2001) managed to use contingent valuation to estimate the value of recreational fishing in New Zealand in a fairly sound manner. They were able to test and disprove various forms of bias and came up with figures comparable to what is found in the RUM studies that also seek to value the value of each additional fish caught/ reveal preferences for fish species. Reading Wheeler & Damania’s study (2001) gave me a better understand of the CV and its validity.

Willingness to Pay: the maximum amount an individual is willing to pay to protect a resource/ recreation. In the case of sea angling, protecting the resource/ recreation involves: maintaining fish stocks and water quality, proper allocation of fish resources (between anglers and commercial interests), limiting pollution, as well as providing sufficient monitoring and enforcement for all of the aforementioned criteria.

Marginal Willingness to Pay: the amount someone is willing to pay for each addition ‘good’, which in the above case is each additional fish caught and consumed.

Me at Silver Stand

Me at Silver Stand during low tide (tides in Ireland will shift from negative low tide to upwards of +15 feet)

Surfing & Surveying

This past weekend I had the opportunity to head down to Lahinch Beach and out to the smallest Aran Island, Inisheer (or Inis Oírr in Irish), to help a fellow colleague in the SEMRU (Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit complete his research. The trip was a good excuse to do some field work, surf, and experience some fairly pristine and historic Irish territory. My favorite part of the weekend was definitely exploring Inisheer. It was truly an incredible experience hiking along largely untouched stones to end up on the back side of such an isolated island.

As for the work part of the weekend, I helped a fellow student complete surveys for his master’s thesis. He is collecting data to determine how a ‘Blue Flag’ rating (or lack there of) affects peoples’ decisions to visit a beach. Essentially, a blue flag signifies excellent safety, beach management, water quality, as well as clean and well-maintained recycling, waste, and restroom facilities. The reason he chose Lahinch as one of the two survey sites is because Lahinch is a very popular beach that recently lost its ‘blue flag’ status due to improper disposal of wastewater from a nearby sewage treatment plant.

Our work entailed surveying individuals about the purpose of their visit, visit expenditures, opinions regarding the blue flag scheme, and how their beach attendance would be affected if Lahinch was to regain its blue flag status for the coming year. Among the people I surveyed, I found that most people were unaware of and unconcerned with the fact that Lahinch recently lost its blue flag. The researcher also plans to a survey individuals at a nearby beach that is better known for its blue flag to determine whether or not those individuals would attend the beach less frequently if the beach was to lose its blue flag. Overall, I found that I don’t much like surveying individuals, especially when they tell me “don’t bother me with that- I’m on vacation!” However, it was a valuable experience and I rather enjoyed talking to some families and tourists about their vacation and whatever else came to mind.

Tucked in There

Socio-Economic Valuation: A way to protect and preserve a recreation, Ireland’s coastal economies, and coastal ecosystems

Is it commonly understood and recognized that sea angling in Ireland represents a significant fraction of the tourism industry via both domestic and foreign anglers. However, limited research has been done to estimate the value of sea angling in Ireland. It is vital that we determine the value of sea angling in Ireland for the sake of preserving a highly historic and cultural recreation, maintaining and expanding a profitable angling market, and ensuring a continued revenue stream for those associated with and affected by sea angling tourism.

In order to preserve sea angling in Ireland, there needs to be a tangible figure of the overall annual value of sea angling in Ireland that proves that sea angling in Ireland is in fact a profitable market and in high demand. Why? Unfortunately, testimonials from sea anglers, skippers, and those involved with sea angling tourism isn’t enough to convince the government to do what is necessary to maintain the current quality of sea angling in Ireland.

From a quick glance at the stats, most anglers in Ireland currently rate their overall sea angling experience as “good” or “very good” and rate their willingness to return as “very likely” or “likely” despite evidence that water quality is declining and the majority of fish stocks are overexploited. Though anglers aren’t yet feeling the effects of a declining angling experience, it is only a matter of time. Smaller fish, reduced fish stocks, decreased species diversity, and poor water quality/ fish health are just a few examples of the many pressures threatening the overall angling experience in Ireland.

An economic evaluation of sea angling offers a way of presenting data to both the Irish government and organizations like the IFI (Inland Fisheries Ireland) so that they can comprehend the immense value of sea angling in Ireland. Furthermore, it will illustrate the need for funding and programs that protect the quality of sea angling. Some potential programs might include: better monitoring of fish stocks and water quality, increased fisheries management, and potentially the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) and no-take zones. An economic analysis of sea anglers is also the first step to ensuring that sea angling in Ireland doesn’t disappear and that the restaurants, hotels, B&B’s, angling charters, and bait & tackle shops don’t go under.

This study is interesting to me because it combines environmental protection with socio-economic well-being of the many Irish folks relying on the sea angling industry both directly and indirectly. If the popularity of sea angling in Ireland diminishes due to an overall reduced quality of angling experience, many Irish men and women involved with sea angling tourism will be forced out of work and left with limited alternatives. After all, tourists don’t come to Ireland for the good weather and sandy beaches. (See photos below –> two different beaches).



Surf Trip to Lahinch


What is Sea Angling?

When most people ask me what I’m doing this summer I tell them, “I’m doing an economic analysis of sea angling in Ireland.” They then proceed to raise their eyebrows, look around cautiously, scrunch up their nose and mouth, tilt their head to the side, think it over for a couple more seconds, and then slowly repeat, “sea angling?” I then smile, amused at their perplexity, and feign reeling in a fish while I gleefully respond, “fishing in the sea!” This method of attack weeds out those who are just making conversation from those who are actually intrigued. Since you’re reading my blog, I assume you fall in the latter category.

Part of the reason sea angling in Ireland is so popular can be attributed to the immense diversity of angling methods, fish species, and over 6,400 kilometers of diverse coastline (World Resources Institute). The wide range of sea angling in Ireland allows both domestic and foreign anglers to modify their sea angling experience to best suit their preferences. Sea angling in Ireland entails recreational fishing in the sea using one of three methods: shore angling, inshore angling, and offshore angling otherwise known as deep sea angling.

Shore angling is the most common form of angling in Ireland and includes fishing from storm beaches, rocky shores, harbors, and saltwater fly fishing. Most forms of shore angling are pretty intuitive, but the concept of storm beach angling was a bit harder for me to grasp. Storm beach angling entails fishing along the west coast of Ireland amidst a massive swell. It’s a bit dangerous to hang out in the shore pound, but storm anglers do quite well seeing as a plethora of fish wash ashore during the bigger swells.

Another method of sea angling in Ireland is inshore angling. Inshore angling requires a small boat just offshore, but out of range of the shore anglers. The boat is usually between 14-18 feet carries up to a handful of anglers. Inshore anglers benefit from the widest range of species, serving as the median between shore and deep sea angling.

The third method of sea angling in Ireland is deep sea angling/ offshore angling. Deep sea angling can take place up to 30+ miles offshore and upwards up 120+ meters deep. Some deep sea anglers specify in “wreck fishing,” which entails fishing in sunken ships. Wreck fishing definitely a niche within a niche, requiring a great deal of time, patience, and skill, but (successful) wreck anglers reap reward by catching massive 30+ pound ling, conger, pollack, ray, and shark.

Because there is such a variety of sea angling in Ireland, Ireland naturally lends itself to sea angling tourism via both domestic and foreign tourists. I have yet to engage in sea angling myself, but I suppose I’ll have to try it at least once before I leave.

For more information on sea angling in Ireland you can visit these pages:

Delicate Tidepools

Delicate Tidepools- Inisheer


Project Background

This summer I am participating in a summer fellowship with the Center for the Blue Economy (CBE) in collaboration with the Socio-Economic Marine Research (SEMRU) at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG). I am working under Dr. Stephen Hynes, the director of SEMRU, to estimate the economic value of sea angling in Ireland using the Travel Cost Model (TCM).

Let me first give some background on the project and what has been done so far. In 2012, Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) completed a survey of some 278 sea anglers in Irish waters. The survey collected data on trip duration, annual and per trip expenditure, anglers’ willingness to pay to help preserve fish stocks and the quality of recreational fishing in Ireland, country of residence, angler demographics, and so forth.

The purpose of IFI’s study was to put a value on the Irish Fishing Resource using contingent valuation. Contingent valuation is increasingly used to determine the value of non-market resources like recreation (i.e.: surfing, mountain climbing, sea angling, scuba diving), entire ecosystems (i.e.: lakes, forests, coral reefs, coastlines, etc.), and ecosystem services (carbon sequestration, purified air & water, crop pollination, energy, biomass, etc.) so that policy-makers and governments can understand why we need to put adequate funding into environmental conservation and protection programs. Simply put, governments don’t protect resources without tangible evidence that a) said resource has x amount of economic worth to society and b) that not protecting it will result in devastating economic losses.

The major critique of contingent valuation is that it is prone to bias. For example, question 17 of the IFI’s survey of recreational anglers in Ireland asks, “How much would you be willing to pay each year, through general taxation, for the next 10 years, to preserve current fish stocks and current quality of recreational fishing in Ireland?” and then offers answers between 0 and over 200 euros. Since the survey was conducted on site (to individuals on angling trips), the participants face an inherent pressure to say that they are willing to pay more than they actually would, which may result in an overly generous estimation of the value of sea angling in Ireland. Despite its proclivity to bias, contingent valuation offers a way of putting a value on environment goods, services, and activities.

My project this summer uses a different method of economic valuation to estimate the value of sea angling in Ireland, namely: the Travel Cost Method (TCM). I will use the data collected from IFI’s 2012 survey that asked anglers to approximate how much they spent on angling gear and travel, the # of days spent fishing and traveling, frequency of trips taken, and the likelihood of returning and/or recommending angling in Ireland to others. Using TCM should result in a more legitimate and/or definitive estimation of the value of sea angling in Ireland since it only draws upon actual expenditures rather than anglers’ hypothetical willingness to pay.

This is an exciting project because sea angling has never before been valued for an entire country using the travel cost method. If successful, this study will serve as a model for other countries to replicate.

Where boats go to rot & waste away

                                                 A Bateau’s Purgatory- Where boats go to rot & waste away