Valuing the non-use benefits of marine conservation zones: An application to the UK Marine Bill
This paper presents the results of a stated preference choice experiment designed to estimate the non-market benefits derived by UK residents from the conservation of ecosystem goods and services resulting from implementation of proposed Marine Conservation Zones under the UK Marine and Coastal Access Bill (2008). The results inform an impact assessment that compares benefits to projected policy costs. As demonstrated in a paper by Hussain et al (2010) ex ante benefit estimation is complicated by the scientific uncertainty and data gaps that hinder the development of a bottom-up valuation of the ecosystem goods and services provisioned by the policy. A choice experiment approach provides an alternative top-down valuation by approximating policy outcomes, which are spatially remote from beneficiaries and therefore arguably only appreciated passively or in terms of non-use or existence value for broadly defined attributes of the policy. The choice experiment shows preferences for both halting the loss of or increasing marine biodiversity, and the provision of other environmental services relative to current trajectories of decline. Survey respondents were indifferent to the levels of restrictions on activities needed to achieve these outcomes. As a top-down estimate of policy benefits, the study suggests that welfare improvements from the Marine Bill significantly outweigh projected regulatory costs.
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