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Australian governments are committed to the expansion of marine protected areas (MPAs) in Australian waters and have already established over 200 MPAs. However, this policy direction has a range of costs and benefits for the community which have largely remained unquantified. One of the main benefits of establishing MPAs are the non use values that the community for the protection of marine biodiversity. This study uses a dichotomous choice contingent valuation format with follow-up open-ended willingness to pay question to estimate these non use values for the establishment of MPAs in South-west Marine Region of Australia. It was found that on average Australian households would be WTP $104 for the establishment of MPAs that cover 10% of the South-west Marine Region. Aggregating this mean WTP estimate to 50% of the population of Australian households gives an aggregate WTP of $400M. However, whether the establishment of MPAs in the South-west Marine Region is economically efficient requires a consideration of all the potential costs and benefits. Other relevant costs and benefits for inclusion in a benefit cost analysis would include those associated with displacement of commercial and non-commercial uses, additional planning, compliance and monitoring costs as well as any predicted increases in commercial and non-commercial use values. If the net costs of establishing MPA over 10% of the South-west Marine Region are less than $400M,then the non-use benefits of establishing MPAs would exceed the other net costs and it would be considered to be economically efficient and desirable from a community welfare perspective. Given the difficulties of estimating precise WTP values from dichotomous choice data, any BCA of MPAs in the South-west Marine Region, incorporating the results of this study, should undertake sensitivity testing that includes the range of values reported including dichotomous choice and openended means to determine the robustness of BCA results to variations in the welfare estimate.


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