Turtle Economic Value: The non-use value of marine turtles in the Asia-Pacific region

Brander L, Eppink F, Hof CM, et al (2024) Turtle Economic Value: The non-use value of marine turtles in the Asia-Pacific region. Ecological Economics 219:108148. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2024.108148

Marine turtle species in the Asia-Pacific region face loss of habitat, population decline and serious risk of extinction. Understanding the associated loss in human welfare can motivate conservation finance, policy reforms and other actions to protect and restore marine turtle populations. This paper estimates non-use values for marine turtles in the Asia-Pacific region using a large-sample (n = 7765) global household survey. The survey focused on six countries in the region (China, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam) but received responses from over 80 countries in total. A discrete choice experiment was used to elicit willingness-to-pay (WTP) for marine turtles, defined in terms of population trends (increasing, stable or declining) and species diversity (avoided extinctions). We find that a high proportion of households (82%) expressed a positive WTP for turtle conservation, and that the donation amounts are substantial. The median WTP for ensuring stable marine turtle populations, adjusted for demographic differences between the survey sample and the general population, is estimated at US $79 per household per year. A scenario analysis is used to estimate the economic welfare changes that would result from policy inaction (in which turtle populations continue to decline and two species become extinct) versus strong policy action (resulting in increasing turtle populations and no extinctions). The welfare loss that results from not acting is estimated to be US $40 billion per year, whereas the potential welfare gain from taking policy action to conserve, manage and protect marine turtles is estimated at US $55 billion per year. These results present a strong economic justification for governments across the region to align their environmental policies and budgets with Asia-Pacific peoples' stated WTP for turtle conservation.