National Marine Sanctuaries
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#25 2000
Open for Business: Bringing Economic Benefits to Sanctuary Communities

What can bring over 70,000 visitors annually to a visitor center in a community of about 10,000 residents? Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, designated in 2000 to protect the nationally significant collection of shipwrecks in Lake Huron, and its Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, have become a major tourist destination in the region. The sanctuary helps to impact $92 million in sales, $35.8 million in personal income to residents, $51.3 million in value added, and 1,704 jobs.

Sanctuaries are managed to support lives and livelihoods, and have strong connections to local communities and special places. For example, virtually all of Massachusetts whale watching occurs in Stellwagen Bank; five companies now offer excursions into the sanctuary for experienced divers, opening up a new ecotourism market for the region. More than 33,000 jobs in the Florida Keys, an area surrounded by the sanctuary, are supported by ocean recreation and tourism, accounting for 58 percent of the local economy and $2.3 billion in annual sales. Approximately 25 marine science facilities associated with Monterey Bay employed almost 2,000 people in 2004 with a combined budget of over $200 million. The Hawaii tour boat industry has grown more than 300% between 1984 and 2004.

Have you ever surfed a wave or swum in the ocean? Eaten a seafood dinner? Scrubbed yourself clean with a natural sponge? Used a medication developed from a sea creature? Then you have benefitted from the ocean. We here in the US are unrivalled in our "environmental capital;" that is, our nation's oceans and other ecosystems, and services they provide to us. Our economic, ecologic, physical, and emotional well-being depends on these services. Parks and protected areas are one important tool in helping protect and maintain our environmental capital.

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