Understanding the behavioural gap between perceived and actual environmental behaviour: Investigating the clam-harvesting pattern in Hong Kong SAR, China

Kelvin Jun Yin SO, Chi Chiu CHEANG, Tin Yan HUI, Janet Kit Yan CHAN*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


At every given site with conservation value, there is a dilemma between conservation and the use of natural resources. Here we describe the first in-depth investigation of the differences between perceived and actual behaviour in clam harvesting, with a view to determine a more sustainable approach to conserve a previously unprotected tourist and clam-harvesting site, Shui Hau, in Hong Kong. We assessed harvesting pressure by conducting a clam-harvest photographic survey and collected self-reported questionnaires in 2018. More than 90% of visitors per sampling day were assessed for the survey, resulting in 86 sets of completed questionnaires and clam harvest photographs, in which we counted the number of clams harvested and recorded the shell length of each clam. We found that the clam-diggers had high self-reported environmental attitudes and behaviour, and a higher new ecological paradigm score was associated with a better clam-digging related attitude and perceived clam-digging behaviour. The low correlation between self-reported behaviour and actual behaviour indicated that most clam-diggers had different concepts or definitions of the appropriate size of the clam harvest and the size of a mature clam, even though each digger reported that he/she had the highest level of environmental attitudes and behaviour. This differentiation may imply a transition problem between environmental attitudes and actual environmental behaviour. An effective management approach is needed to foster clam-diggers’ sense of biodiversity to embrace the long-term sustainable use of coastal resources.

Original languageEnglish
Article number128259
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date8 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

We are grateful to Mr Michael K. P. Ma for his help in the process of field assistance and data analysis, as well as, to the four anonymous reviewers for giving invaluable advice in revising the manuscript. We extend our gratitude to Lydia Pang and the Ocean Conservation Department, WWF-Hong Kong, for their logistic and financial support to the study. This study did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial or non-profit sectors.


  • Environmental attitude
  • Environmental behaviour
  • Environmental management
  • Social desirability
  • Sustainable clam harvesting
  • Sustainable tourism


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