Socioeconomic Impact Analysis of Boundary Expansion in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, 2013

This report provides a socioeconomic impact analysis for expanding the boundaries of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS). Quantitative aspects of the analysis are based on a baseline study of use for a study area in the northwest Gulf of Mexico containing several banks that are being evaluated for expanding the current sanctuary. Use is by commercial fishing operations, for-hire recreational fishing operations more commonly referred to as charter and party/head boat operations, and the for-hire recreational dive operations. For the commercial fishery, use is measured as pounds and revenue received by the fishermen by species/species groups and type of gear. For the recreational for-hire industry, use is measured in person-days. Costs-and- earnings are obtained for all operations and from that economic performance measures are derived. For the commercial fishing operations, performance measures developed were profits per unit of revenue and return on investment, while for the recreational for- hire industry performance measures were profits per person-day and return on investment. Demographic profiles of owner/operators of the operations were also obtained to support socioeconomic impact assessments of regulations. Spatial use was also obtained to assess impacts of boundary expansion of the sanctuary or any future marine zoning. Results for the "for-hire" recreational dive industry use could not be reported here because there is only one operation currently operating in the northwest Gulf of Mexico study area. Quantitative assessments were limited to three of the five alternatives assessed here since two alternatives include areas outside the northwest Gulf of Mexico study area. Only longlining is displaced for the commercial fishing industry and spearfishing for recreational fishing, both of which are very small impacts for which we conclude could be offset by substituting to other areas. An additional possible impact to the commercial and recreational fishing industries is the no anchoring regulation, but this is limited to a very small portion of total fishing catch and effort and could be offset and/or mitigated by substituting to other areas or provision of mooring buoys. The oil and gas industry is also potentially impacted by the requirement to vertically shunt their pollutants for platforms inside sanctuary boundaries, but these costs are judged to be minor. The benefits of expanding the sanctuary is dominated by what are called passive economic use values or non-use values. Even using lower bound estimates for these benefits, the benefits of boundary expansion far exceed the costs and are net benefit to the nation.

Key Words

commercial fishing, recreational fishing, recreational diving, for-hire operations, charter boat, party boat, costs-and-earnings, demographic profiles, socioeconomic, passive economic use value, oil and gas