Estuary Management And Recreational Fishing Benefits
Recognition of the benefits to society supported by estuary ecosystem functions and services, and threats to these benefits posed by human activities, has led to various public programs to restore and protect estuaries and the federal, state and local levels. As available budgets shrink, program administrators and public elected officials struggle to allocate limited restoration and protection funds to the highest priority areas. Economic benefit and cost information can provide useful inputs into this decision-making process by quantifying estuary restoration and protection benefits and costs in commensurate terms. In this paper, a combined actual and intended travel behavior model is described that can be applied to estimate the recreational fishing benefits of estuary restoration and protection. The model was estimated for recreational fishing in the Lower Atchafalaya River Basin estuary along the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana, U.S.A. coast. Changes in freshwater flows into this estuary may affect redfish and speckled trout game fish populations. The model indicates that changes in catch rates of these two species would have a relatively minor affect on annual fishing trips per angler. However, because total effects may be large when effects per angler are aggregated across total anglers, resource management agencies should consider these changes in recreation benefits when evaluating projects that influence the ecology of coastal estuaries, fish populations and catch rates. Moreover, in other coastal areas or situations, the responsiveness of angling trips to changes in catch rates may vary because of differences in user populations, environmental conditions, fish populations and fishing experiences.
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