In January of 2023, C-PREE researchers Bing Lin and David Wilcove published a paper that revealed how coastal tourism contributes to the degradation of coral reefs and marine ecosystems in Hawaii. Almost a year after publication, Lin, Wilcove, and their research team’s paper has contributed to the passing of Hawaii’s Ocean Stewardship User Fee that took effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
This legislation (Act 46 [SLH 2021] - Hawaii Revised Statutes §187A-52) charges participants of recreational ocean activities, such as scuba diving or snorkeling, a $1.00 per person fee. Most of the fee’s revenue will be used to manage and protect coral reefs and other aquatic ecosystems on the shores of Hawaii, but a notable 20% of the funding will also be allocated to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to improve the everyday lives and living conditions of Native Hawaiians.
“Overall, if successful, this policy would be a small but important step towards a sustainable marine tourism economy in Hawaii, and sets a promising precedent for conservation finance initiatives elsewhere,” says Lin. “By helping to systematically quantify and interconnect human use and habitat degradation across Hawaii, we are excited to have our research contribute, in whatever small way, to marine conservation management in the real-world.”
Building upon the knowledge obtained from Lin and Wilcove’s research, extra revenue generated from this fee will be used to further investigate the human impact on Hawaiian marine life, an increasingly salient concern for sustainable reef use across the archipelago.
Wilcove notes, “It is very gratifying to see our research contribute to solving an important environmental problem. Our goal as researchers is not simply to publish papers, but rather to publish papers that contribute to making the world a more sustainable place.”