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The place attachment of visitors to Ningaloo Marine Park, north-western Australia

Tonge, J., Moore, S.A., Beckley, L.E. and Ryan, M. (2010) The place attachment of visitors to Ningaloo Marine Park, north-western Australia. In: 16th International Symposium on Society and Natural Resource Management, 6 - 10 June, Corpus Christi, USA.

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Place attachment has been the subject of a rich, growing body of research in natural resource management, with a particular emphasis on visitors to national parks and forests. Understanding how such attachments are formed as well as their strength has been of central interest. Most of this work has been terrestrially based, with little attention to marine settings. The question of whether the same predominant elements of place attachment – physical environment, activities, social ties and emotional connection – apply to marine national parks remains to be answered. Ningaloo Marine Park in north-western Australia provided the focus for this study. Place attachment is of great interest in this Marine Park because the results of a recent visitor survey showed that 55% of respondents had visited previously and of this, 44% stayed at the same location, suggesting strong place attachment. Photo-elicitation, where photographs are taken by visitors and provide the basis for a subsequent interview, was used to explore this phenomenon. A total of 30 visitors agreed to participate, with up to eight photographs taken by each. Fieldwork was undertaken in July 2009 with preliminary results suggesting that place attachment at the Marine Park has the same four elements as those found in terrestrial-based studies. There were, however, distinct marine components for each element. For the physical environment, coastal vistas were enjoyed because of the feelings of remoteness and isolation they promoted as well as their majestic beauty. Activities centred on those that were uniquely marine, such as snorkelling, diving and fishing. Social ties were evidenced in the bonding of visitors with others who shared similar marine-based past-times such as boating. Regarding emotional connection, families enjoyed being able to visit a location where everybody was happy because all members were able to do their own activities and have a pleasurable experience. Participants were also asked about place-specific behaviours. Place-protective behaviours were obvious from the responses provided and included picking up rubbish and telling others if they were doing the ‘wrong’ thing. Place protection was also evident in the responses regarding perceptions of management. The dominant response related to increasing the presence of management to enforce rules and regulations, particularly for fishing.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
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