Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental and Natural Resources Economics

Department

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics

First Advisor

Hirotsugu Uchida

Abstract

Sound natural resource management considers the full range of costs and benefits of policy action. Understanding these implications as they pertain to nonmarket goods or externalities requires an accurate assessment of consumer preferences and behavior. The chapters of this dissertation ascertain this knowledge in the context of recreational Atlantic striped bass fishery management and offshore wind development in the northeast United States.

Atlantic striped bass are the most prominent and heavily targeted recreational species found along the coast from Maine to North Carolina. Yet due in part to heavy recreational fishing effort, the species may be currently overfished. Given this status, it is pertinent to explore the concurrent impacts of potential policy action on angler participation, angler welfare, and recreational fishing mortality such that efficient compromises between conservation and socioeconomic objectives of fisheries management can be made.

In Chapter 1, we evaluate the economic incentives faced by recreational striped bass anglers using data from a recently-administered recreational striped bass angler survey. We estimate angler preferences for and the nonmarket value of keeping and releasing small (22”), medium (29”), and trophy-sized (38”) fish. We find that for each size-class, anglers prefer keeping to releasing striped bass and that the nonmarket value of Atlantic striped bass increases exponentially with catch size. Illuminating the tradeoffs made by recreational striped bass anglers, our results indicate that one harvestable trophy-sized fish can be exchanged for about two medium-sized or three small ones. Chapter 1 also sheds light on an important issue that arises when using discrete choice experiment data to evaluate angler preferences; namely, the influence of including versus excluding catch-and-release regulations on ensuing parameter estimates in models of angler utility. We find that failing to control for such regulations leads to counterintuitive estimates of the marginal utility of releasing striped bass. Finally, while choice experiment survey data is used extensively in the literature on recreational demand modeling, little attention has been paid to survey non-response bias on welfare estimates. We spearhead this issue using data collected from survey non-respondents during a telephone pre-screening interview.

In Chapter 2, we integrate the main results from Chapter 1 and historical catch data into an aggregate demand model to examine the broad effect of recreational striped bass fishing policies. We simulate the recreational Atlantic striped bass fishery and measure the relative effect of alternative sets of fishing regulations on angler welfare, angler participation, fishing mortality, and mature female fishing mortality. By comparing fishery outcomes across several recreational fishing policies, we assess policy-induced economic and biological tradeoffs that have yet to be considered jointly by managers of the fishery. We find that a wide range of economically efficient policies are available when the primary purpose of proposed policy action across the studied region is to control total recreational fishing mortality. When proposed management action is intended to curtail mature female recreational fishing mortality, however, proposed policy action that does not account for potential economic consequences can lead to inefficient outcomes, as exemplified by several of the policies analyzed lying inside the efficient frontier of welfare and female spawning stock removal volume. The findings in Chapter 2 illuminate the practicality of assessing angler behavioral responses as a means of selecting efficient regulations, particularly when fisheries managers seek to balance socioeconomic goals with multiple conservation objectives.

Chapter 3 of this dissertation, currently in review at Resource and Energy Economics, addresses one previously unanswered question related to offshore wind energy development: that is, to what extent do offshore wind farms (OSWFs) impact local tourism? We examine how the Block Island Wind Farm, the United States’ first operational OSWF, has impacted the short-term housing rental market. Using data from AirBnb, we estimate a difference-in-differences model that compares rental activity in Block Island to that in three nearby tourist destinations in Southern New England before and after construction. Estimation results suggest that following its construction, the Block Island Wind Farm caused a significant increase in nightly reservations, occupancy rates, and monthly revenues for AirBnb properties in Block Island during the peaktourism months of July and August but had no effect in other months. The findings from this case study indicate that offshore wind farms can act as an attractive feature of a location, rather than a deterrent, and provide an important data point for the ongoing debate surrounding tourism impacts of OSWFs.

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