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Traditional knowledge and economic value

Survey Methods

Timeline of major environmental and socio-economic changes in the Tolo area

In assessing the present day economic value of marine resources in Tolo Harbour and Channel, it is important to have knowledge of the environment of the study area as it was in the past, in order to better understand the changes that have taken place which had direct and indirect consequences on the current status of natural resources in the Tolo area. Local literature, government and district council records, as well as newspaper reports, were perused and a historical timeline of major events that had impacts on the study area was compiled.


The timeline also aids in the conducting of interviews on traditional knowledge because interviewees’ statements can be placed in the correct chronological sequence, in particular, when the respondents cannot recall precise dates of events. The interviewer can also refer to specific major events to help guide the direction of the interviews, such as the construction of Plover Cove Reservoir in the 1960s, the rapid urbanization and reclamation that led to the development of Tai Po and Sha Tin New Towns in the 1970s, devastating typhoons, and the establishment of the marine fish culture industry in the 1980s.


The history of fishing in the Tolo area

Interviews with former and present fishermen were conducted covering perspectives on the use of terrestrial and marine resources. In addition, accounts and understanding of changes in the marine biodiversity and ecosystems of the Tolo area were collected from the semi-structured interviews held with residents, fishermen, historians, naturalists and eco-education practitioners. Such collaborations were arranged with The Environmental Association (formerly Tai Po Environmental Association) to conduct interviews for traditional knowledge as part of a project documenting the oral history of residents in the Tolo area.

Assessing the socio-economic value of the marine environment in Ting Kok and the Tolo area 
A separate series of interviews was conducted with residents of, and visitors to, Ting Kok and adjacent areas to determine how they value the marine environment of Tolo Harbour. Consumer surplus from tourism and recreation was estimated using a choice experiment survey of visitors to the Tolo area. A choice experiment (a technique widely used in market research) asked respondents to make repeated choices between alternative multi-attribute descriptions of a good or service (e.g., a recreational visit to Tolo Harbour). By observing the trade-offs that were made between attributes (one of which is a monetary cost), their relative values to the sample of respondents were estimated. Their willingness to pay for biodiversity conservation in the Tolo area was also estimated through this approach. Respondents’ knowledge and experience of the area, residential location, and recreational interests were used to assess the magnitude of non-use values.

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) requires that interview surveys must receive prior ethical approval by the university’s Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) before interviews can proceed, thus the respective questionnaires for traditional knowledge and socio-economic interviews were submitted to the HREC and have been approved. Furthermore, Informed Consent Forms were drawn up and approved by the HREC, which were signed by the interviewer and interviewee at the start of each interview, to enable HKU Library to legally place the interviews in its publically accessible collections. Permission was, therefore, granted by HKU’s HREC for all the interviews conducted.

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