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Why do People Care about Sea Lions? A Fishing Game to Study the Value of Endangered Species


  • Min Gong


  • Geoffrey Heal


Previous research proposes that human beings are motivated to protect endangered species for various reasons: consumptive use value, non-consumptive use value, non-use value, and intrinsic value. However, it has been difficult to tease apart these values at the behavioral level. Using an innovative fishing game, we study an important tradeoff between one kind of use value (monetary value) and one kind of non-use value (existence value) of the endangered Steller sea lion. In the fishing game, players make repeated decisions on how much pollock to harvest for profit in each period in a dynamic ecosystem. The population of the endangered sea lion depends on the population of pollock, which in turn depends on the harvesting behavior of humans. The data show that in general, people responded to the financial value (as a tourist resource), but not the existence value, of the sea lion by cutting down commercial fish harvesting to keep more sea lions in the ecosystem. However, not all people behaved the same regarding the existence value. Females displayed a higher existence value than males, as did people who reported stronger pro-environmental attitudes than those with weaker pro-environmental attitudes. Our findings have multiple implications on public opinion elicitation and public policy design. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Suggested Citation

  • Min Gong & Geoffrey Heal, 2014. "Why do People Care about Sea Lions? A Fishing Game to Study the Value of Endangered Species," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 59(4), pages 503-523, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:enreec:v:59:y:2014:i:4:p:503-523
    DOI: 10.1007/s10640-013-9746-8

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Simpson, R David & Sedjo, Roger A & Reid, John W, 1996. "Valuing Biodiversity for Use in Pharmaceutical Research," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(1), pages 163-185, February.
    2. Finnoff, David & Gong, Min & Tschirhart, John, 2012. "Perspectives on Ecosystem Based Management for Delivering Ecosystem Services with an Example from an Eighteen-Species Marine Model," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 6(1), pages 79-118, January.
    3. Min Gong & David Aadland, 2011. "Interview Effects in an Environmental Valuation Telephone Survey," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 49(1), pages 47-64, May.
    4. Edward B. Barbier, 2011. "Pricing Nature," Annual Review of Resource Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 3(1), pages 337-353, October.
    5. Finnoff, David & Tschirhart, John, 2003. "Harvesting in an eight-species ecosystem," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 589-611, May.
    6. Philippe Robert-Demontrond & R. Ringoot, 2004. "Introduction," Post-Print halshs-00081823, HAL.
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