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Valuing Improvements to the Environmental Performance of Salmon Aquaculture in British Columbia: A Choice Modelling Approach

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In recent years, alternative systems of aquaculture, including integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) and closed-containment aquaculture (CCA), have been developed to address some of the environmental effects of conventional salmon aquaculture. Industry adoption of these technologies in British Columbia has been tentative, since there is little financial incentive for salmon aquaculture companies to improve their environmental performance. While previous studies have outlined the private economic benefits and costs associated with IMTA and CCA adoption, they did not address the benefits accrued to society associated with improvements to theenvironmental performance of the salmon aquaculture industry. Doing so would increase the economic value of these technologies, and provide justification for implementing policies that would encourage its widespread adoption. This study used a discrete choice experiment administered via an online survey of 1321 residents of British Columbia to address three research questions: (i) how do residents of BC value improvements to the coastal environment that could be realized through the adoption of more sustainable aquaculture systems, (ii) how is this valuation affected by using different ‘status quos’ and (iii) are British Columbians supportive of alternative aquaculture technology adoption? Results demonstrate that British Columbians are WTP to improve the environmental conditions surrounding salmon farms, and that this WTP varies depending on the status quo conditions. Bymaking assumptions regarding the potential environmental improvements that could arise from widespread adoption of IMTA or CCA technologies in British Columbia, the benefits to society from their adoption can be approximated. Based on these assumptions, British Columbians would be WTP between CDN $77.76 and $159.54 per household per year to support development and fund incentives for adoption of IMTA, and $133.28 to $173.00 per household per year to support development and fund incentives for adoption of CCA, depending on future status quo conditions. Opinions regarding IMTA vs. CCA technologies are mixed in British Columbia, with32.4% of residents indicating a preference for CCA, and 25.5% preferring IMTA. Overall, results indicate that British Columbians are highly supportive of using government policy to improve the environmental performance of salmon aquaculture.
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