Do US Anglers Care about Harmful Algal Blooms? A discrete choice experiment of Lake Erie recreational anglers

Wendong Zhang, Brent Sohngen
February 2018  [17-WP 573] (Revised)

Despite the growing awareness of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the US and abroad, estimates of welfare losses due to their presence are missing from the literature. Using a mail survey of 767 Ohio Lake Erie recreational angler respondents and a choice experiment, this study provides the first empirical quantification of the economic impacts of HABs on US recreational anglers. Our results demonstrate a significant and substantial willingness to pay by anglers for reduction in HABs, beyond the benefits associated with conventional water quality measures such as catch rates and water clarity. For instance, we find that anglers are willing to pay $8–$10 more per trip for one less mile of boating through HABs enroute to a fishing site. This finding suggests that explicit measures of HABs need to be collected and considered when valuing water quality in nutrient-rich waterbodies. We evaluate the welfare improvements resulting from several nutrient reduction policies, and find that anglers are willing to pay on average $40-60 per trip for a policy that cuts upstream phosphorus loadings by 40%. The majority of welfare gains for anglers result from improving the non-catchable component of the fishing experience, notably water clarity and HAB reduction, as opposed to better chances of angler success.
Keywords: Choice experiment, discrete choice, generalized multinomial logit model, harmful algal bloom, Lake Erie, non-market valuation, recreational angler, recreation demand, survey, water quality
JEL Codes: Q51, Q53, Q57, Q15

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