Gong, M. & Heal, G. Environ Resource Econ (2014) 59: 503. doi:10.1007/s10640-013-9746-8
Previous research proposes that human beings are motivated to protect endangered species for various reasons: consumptive use value, non-consumptive use value, non-use value, and intrinsic value. However, it has been difficult to tease apart these values at the behavioral level. Using an innovative fishing game, we study an important tradeoff between one kind of use value (monetary value) and one kind of non-use value (existence value) of the endangered Steller sea lion. In the fishing game, players make repeated decisions on how much pollock to harvest for profit in each period in a dynamic ecosystem. The population of the endangered sea lion depends on the population of pollock, which in turn depends on the harvesting behavior of humans. The data show that in general, people responded to the financial value (as a tourist resource), but not the existence value, of the sea lion by cutting down commercial fish harvesting to keep more sea lions in the ecosystem. However, not all people behaved the same regarding the existence value. Females displayed a higher existence value than males, as did people who reported stronger pro-environmental attitudes than those with weaker pro-environmental attitudes. Our findings have multiple implications on public opinion elicitation and public policy design.