Recreational Value of Blue Marlin in Hawaii

The purpose of the project was to develop estimates of the economic value associated with blue marlin caught by recreational fishermen in Hawaii. This allows comparison of economic values of recreational blue marlin fishing, for which there is no market, with commercial values, for which a market is established. The results were designed to enable fisheries managers to better compare recreational and commercial values associated with blue marlin.

Data were collected as a component of the socioeconomic add-on mail survey conducted in 2006-7 through the Hawaii Marine Recreational Fishing Survey (HMRFS). We were able to incorporate questions regarding catch of ahi (tuna species) into the survey, allowing us to develop values for those species, as well as adding questions about mahi mahi to the charter boat client survey and questions about an "ice chest" catch of varying size pounds to the private boater survey. The approach utilized in the current study was the choice experiment or conjoint method, one of a larger group of stated preference approaches to valuing nonmarket resources.

The data were analyzed through a contract with the Gentner Consulting Group and a University of Montana economics team led by Dr. John Duffield.

Based on 480 completed surveys, respondents were predominantly male (94.2%), Asian (51.6%), had relatively high incomes ($79,816), and boat owners (59.6%). Fishing motivations included fishing for profit, expense fishing, Holoholo (purely recreational), Kaukau (subsistence fishing), and trophy fishing. Multinomial logit models were estimated and parameters on trip cost, marlin catch, Ahi weight, the summer season and a nonconsumptive attribute, seeing marlin, were all highly significant and of the expected sign. Part-worth willingness to pay for catching a blue marlin was estimated at $521 for the charter group and $276 for those on private boat trips. Marginal value per pound for Ahi was similar for both groups, $0.96/pound for charter and $0.92 for private boat. Of the three models (all, charter, and private) the primary differences were seen in the valuation of marlin fishing success between the self-identified charter subsample and the self-identified private trip subsample. The charter group valued the attributes seeing blue marlin, hooking but losing a blue marlin, and catching a blue marlin more highly than did the private trip group. This result was consistent with other survey responses such as the finding that while 24% of charter respondents said that marlin were "rarely or never desirable" as a species to catch, 33% of the private trip group responded this way. A second finding was that viewing and hooking, fighting, but losing a marlin also had substantial marginal values associated with them. In all three models catching and landing a marlin had a higher marginal value than either just viewing a marlin in the spread or hooking but losing a marlin. It was somewhat surprising, however, how highly the nonconsumptive attributes were valued compared to actually landing a marlin. One implication is that, especially for the charter fishery, catch-and-release regulations would not be expected to greatly decrease the value of the blue marlin sport fishery in Hawaii. In recent years, many charter vessels have voluntarily gone to catch-and-release fishing for blue marlin.

The results were presented at the North American Association of Fisheries Economists meeting in Honolulu on May 13, 2011 and have been submitted to a journal.