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.