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Sultan Qaboos University (2018)

Economic valuation of natural reserves in the sultanate of Oman : case of marine turtles

Al-Busaidiyah, Mariam Mohammed Yaqoob

Titre : Economic valuation of natural reserves in the sultanate of Oman : case of marine turtles

Auteur : Al-Busaidiyah, Mariam Mohammed Yaqoob

Université de soutenance : Sultan Qaboos University

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy in Natural resources Economics 2018

Although mostly arid, the Sultanate of Oman harbors a large diversity of ecosystems, which contribute to its geographical uniqueness, social make up and economic wealth. The importance of marine turtle conservation has long been recognized in Oman. Two of the global nesting sites at the Dimaniyat Islands and Ras Al Hadd were declared Nature Reserves in 1996, but Masirah Island remains at a project stage. Recognizing the country’s competitive strength in natural resources and the global demand for nature-based tourism, Oman is promoting marine tourism activities such as dolphin and turtle watching, and recreational activities through numerous operators distributed along the whole coastline. Among the four species of marine turtle nest that in Oman the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), the hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), three nest in rookeries of global conservation values : the green turtle in Ras Al Hadd (Ras Al Jinz area), the loggerhead on Masirah Island and the hawksbill on the Dimaniyat islands. Despite many studies on marine turtle biology and ecology there is a clear lack of economic indicators in Oman, which are critical for informed decision-making processes. While there is strong evidence of government commitment to develop nature-based tourism in the country, a number of key issues were highlighted through a SWOT analysis. Thus, the main objective of this research is to provide an empirical valuation of the economic opportunities that can be generated from the conservation programs of marine turtles in Oman at two sites : Masirah Island and Ras Al Hadd. The Contingent Valuation Method (CVM), the Conjoint Analysis (CA), and stakeholder perception analysis were adopted and the corresponding models were estimated from questionnaire responses of more than 600 interviews using logit regression techniques. Finally, the analytical results were used to develop a country study report under the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) framework developed by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Overall, the analytical results suggest that there is potential to improve the marine turtle conservation efforts and thereby increase the contribution of sustainable marine turtle tourism to Oman’s gross domestic product. However, to realize this potential the sector needs to develop effective strategies to address the seasonal variation of tourists, accommodation capabilities especially at sites with ecological uniqueness, creation of employment opportunities for Omani nationals, effective targeted promotion, effective enforcement of the legislation protecting marine turtles and their habitats, community participation, partnership approaches and setting of differential pricing policies. It is hoped that Oman’s policymakers will use these findings to give a new impetus on marine turtle conservation and sustainable marine turtle tourism in Oman. Moreover it is also hoped that this pilot study on using TEEB approach for Oman and the region will emphasize Oman’s commitment to the international agencies namely CBD

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