Understanding motivations and economic contributions of coral reef related recreation and coral reef health to Hawai`i by divers and snorkelers

Sabrina Lovell1, Noelle Olsen1 and Mariska Weijerman2, (1)NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Silver Spring, MD, United States, (2)NOAA Honolulu, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Honolulu, HI, United States
In order to understand socio-economic and ecological impacts of alternative management strategies for improving ecosystem services, NOAA Fisheries conducted a survey to estimate the economic impacts associated with diving and snorkeling on Hawaiian coral reefs as well as motivations and opinions of coral reef activities and health. There were 572 Hawaiian residents and 237 non-residents who responded. On average, resident divers and snorkelers from the sample spent $930 on durable goods and $227 on trip-level goods, and non-resident divers and snorkelers spent $297 on durable goods and $554 on trip-level goods. Both residents and non-residents rated seeing healthy coral, abundant fish, and a wide variety of fish similarly, with at least 75% of the respondents rating these three categories as very important in their decision to go diving. About 24% of residents rated spearfishing as either important or very important factors in deciding to go diving. Respondents were asked to evaluate the reef and biodiversity of their most recent dive or snorkel as well as whether changes in reef conditions would influence their decision to go diving or snorkeling in the future. At least 64%, 69%, and 66% of both residents and non-residents stated they would be less likely to dive or snorkel if coral health, fish abundance, and fish diversity were to decrease, respectively. Results of this survey will be incorporated in an end-to-end Atlantis ecosystem model that integrates oceanographic, ecological and socio-economic dynamics to quantify socio-economic and ecological tradeoffs of alternative management scenarios or the impacts of climate change. Estimates of the impacts associated with diving and snorkeling on reefs and their contribution to Hawaii’s economy can help our understanding of how coral reefs support Hawaiian communities, inform management, and prioritize conservation and research needs.