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ATLAS Deliverable 5.4: Willingness to pay for conservation in the North Atlantic deep-sea ecosystems

Ankamah-Yeboah, I; Xuan, BB; Hynes, S; Needham, K; Armstrong, CW

This report presents an assessment of how the public perceives, and values deep-sea ecosystem services in the North Atlantic, and provides a foundation for evaluating and balancing Blue Growth with conservation management in the deep sea. Nonmarket valuation is used to evaluate public perceptions of the deep sea environment and the socio-economic values of new marine management plans. This report presents the results of two discrete choice experiment surveys that were employed to assess the values held by the Scottish and Norwegian public for the Mingulay reef complex and Hola off Lofoten-Vesterålen (LoVe), respectively.
Regarding public perception, the results show that public knowledge and awareness of deep-sea ecosystems is relatively higher among Norwegians than among the Scottish public. Specifically, awareness of cold-water corals is high for the LoVe case study amongst the Norwegian public and low for the Mingulay reef complex in the Scottish case. Despite this limited knowledge, many respondents thought changes in the deep sea would have at least some effect on them personally. On average, the public perceives deep-sea conditions to be at most ‘fairly good’ but are pessimistic about its management: a significantly higher share, 76% of Norwegians perceive the deep sea to be poorly-managed compared to 12% of those surveyed in Scotland.
Results from both countries highlight eco-centric attitudes towards the marine environment, implying that the general public recognise the value of ecosystem services, the current ecological crisis and the need for sustainable management. Demographic profiles of respondents and their experiences play influential roles, with exposure to media-art like the Blue-Planet II series showing prominence in most perception dimensions.
To determine whether the perceived public support translates into monetary support for new management scenarios, a discrete choice experiment was conducted to assess trade-offs for improvement in a number of deep-sea environment attributes; environmental health and quality, an increase in the size of marine protected areas (MPAs) and new marine related job creation. Latent class logit results revealed two distinct groups of public preferences: a minority of respondents who derive minimal value from the marine environment and a second group who exhibit significant positive preferences for all the management attributes and exhibit strong preferences for new policy options.
The most valued of the new policy attributes were those related to the key pressures of the marine environment: commercial fish stocks and marine litter designated as Descriptors 3 and 10 respectively in the GES of the MSF Directive. This was followed by the size of the marine protected area, whilst the creation of jobs is the least valued. Overall, however, weighted average willingness to pay estimates, indicate that the public in both countries is willing to pay to support conservation of the unfamiliar deep-sea ecosystem irrespective of the individual attributes delivered in a new marine management plan. The results highlight the importance of the deep-sea ecosystems to the public and provide support for further collective action required by the EU in moving beyond the 2020 Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) objective of achieving good environmental status for Europe’s seas. 

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