The role of SCUBA diver user fees as a source of sustainable funding for coral reef marine Protected areas
Coral reefs are both highly diverse and economically important. Human activities, however, threaten the world's coral reefs, endangering their biological and economic value. No take Marine Protected Areas (MPA), which ban fishing within MPA boundaries, help conserve and restore reef health and provide ecological resilience to reefs in the face of global warming and ocean acidification. In many cases, cost-benefit analyses have provided strong support for the establishment of protected areas, but insufficient funding is often the largest obstacle to successful MPA implementation. SCUBA diving tourism is one method for financing coral reef conservation. Creating employment opportunities in the tourist industry provides an alternative to destructive fishing methods for the local community, and diver user fees can also be used to directly fund MPA management. While diver fees are a successful source of funding for some MPAs, more often than not, no fees are collected or the fees collected are inadequate to cover the costs of managing an MPA. This paper compares current user fees charged for diving in Caribbean MPAs and compares the fees to what tourists pay to reach their destination, for hotel rooms and other amenities. Fewer than one quarter of MPAs charged fees. Whhen charged, the fees were, on average, well below likely willingness-to-pay levels. Fees were more likely to be charged when NGOs were involved with MPA management.