National Marine Sanctuaries and Local Economies

photo of pier with shops

National marine sanctuaries are centers for strong local economies and have economic value reaching far beyond the water.

From restaurants and hotels, to aquariums and kayak operators, the success of many businesses, millions of dollars in sales and thousands of jobs, directly depend on thriving national marine sanctuaries.

Across all national marine sanctuaries, about $8 billion annually is generated in local coastal and ocean dependent economies from diverse activities like commercial fishing, research and recreation/tourism-related activities.

  • Between 2010 and 2012, there were, on average, $69.2 million in harvest revenue/value of landings from commercial catch in the four California national marine sanctuaries.  This revenue generated, with multiplier impacts, almost $144 million in output, $76.9 million in value-added (gross regional product), and $70 million in income, which supported 1,840 jobs in the coastal counties of California.

  • Between 2010 and 2012, there were, on average, $155.6 million in spending for recreational fishing in the four California national marine sanctuaries. This spending generated, with multiplier impacts, $213 million in output, $129 million in value-added (gross regional product), and $74.6 million in income, which supported 1,376 jobs in the coastal counties of California.

  • In 2014, recreation activities in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary resulted in $101.6 million in spending in the coastal counties on the Outer Coast of Washington state. This spending generated, with multiplier impacts, $128.2 million in output, $78 million in value-added (gross regional product), and $46.1 million in income, which supported 1,192 jobs.

  • In the Pacific Northwest, Treaty Tribes are connected economically, culturally and spiritually to natural resources found on their reserved lands and within their usual and accustomed hunting, fishing and gathering areas; Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is helping preserve resources critical for sustaining these ocean-dependant livelihoods that have existed along this coast for thousands of years.

  • According to a 2005 study1, counties surrounding Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary garner $100 million in sales associated with sanctuary activities, $39.1 million in personal income to residents, $59.1 million in value added and 1,704 jobs.

  • A study2 completed in 2000 estimated that Massachusetts alone accounted for nearly 80 percent of New England whale watching tour totals, generating $31.3 million; virtually all of Massachusetts whale watching occurs in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

  • In the tourist season 2007-2008, more than 400,000 visitors and residents of the Florida Keys engaged in over 2 million person-days of recreational sports fishing.  These recreational fishers spent $274 million in Monroe County/Florida Keys, approximately $107.6 million of which was directly spent on fishing items.
  • In the tourist season 2007-2008, approximately 739,000 visitors and residents participated in 2.8 million days of diving in the Florida Keys; $54 million was spent at diving/snorkeling operations.  Moreover, divers spent a total of $470 million in Monroe County, Florida Keys, supporting more than 7,500 jobs.

  • The total benefits of coral reefs to American Samoa residents and visitors are estimated to be worth around $5 million per year.

National marine sanctuaries continue to build stronger communities, support local economies and maintain coastal cultures - true American treasures.  We are committed to supporting lives and livelihoods across the nation and in sanctuary communities through socioeconomic research to better understand the economic and social drivers of sanctuary resources and improve management practices. 

1Ehler, Rod and Jordan Parrillo. Northeast Michigan Integrated Assessment Final Report: Socioeconomic Assessment. NOAA and Michigan Sea Grant. 2009.

2Hoagland, Porter and Andrew E. Meeks. The Demand for Whalewatching at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Marine Policy Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. 2000.