National Marine Sanctuaries and Local Economies

photo of pier with shops

Just as national parks and national forests protect and conserve our natural resources on land, national marine sanctuaries do so in the ocean and Great Lakes. Sanctuaries are managed to support lives and livelihoods, and have strong connections to local communities and special places.

Below are links to pages that summarize what we currently know about the benefit of national marine sanctuaries to local income and jobs. These also serve as a guide to communities and researchers interested in bolstering current sanctuary knowledge by filling information gaps and updating data.

All facts and fact sheets below will be updated as new information develops. Check back with this site periodically for updates.

National System

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 tourism/recreation activities.

Northeast and Great Lakes

Thunder Bay

The visitor center for Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary - Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center - is a major tourist destination for the region, hosting 97,000 visitors in 2015. The population of the City of Alpena is 12,000.

Stellwagen Bank

Virtually all of Massachusetts whale watching occurs in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, one of the top-ten premiere whale watching locations in the world.


Sanctuary partners include over ten museums and aquariums throughout North Carolina and Virginia. Direct financial support, exhibition materials and staff time are provided to these partners on behalf of the sanctuary.

Gulf of Mexico and Southeast

Gray's Reef

A recent study estimated that expenditures related to private-boat recreational fishing in the sanctuary total approximately $1.5 million annually.

Florida Keys

More than 33,000 jobs in the Florida Keys are supported by ocean recreation and tourism, accounting for 58 percent of the local economy and $2.3 billion in annual sales.

Flower Garden Banks

An estimated 1,500 - 2,000 divers visit Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary annually.


West Coast

Channel Islands

365,000 person-days of recreational fishing in Channel Islands generated sales of almost $40 million in 1999, which supported 928 jobs in adjacent communities.

Monterey Bay

Travel and tourism is one of the most significant industries in the California Central Coast, with a total travel-spending revenue in 2003 of $5.9 billion.

Cordell Bank

On average, 49 commercial fishing operations earned almost $993 thousand in harvest revenue from catch in the sanctuary for years 2010-2012.

Greater Farallones

On average, for years 2010-2012, $15 million in harvest revenue from catch in the sanctuary generated more than $16 million in value-added and 291 full-time and part-time jobs.

Olympic Coast

In 2009, there were over 3,000 commercial fishing trips and approximately 11,000 recreational fishing trips in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

Pacific Islands

American Samoa

The coral reefs of American Samoa provide for subsistence fishing, traditional nearshore commercial fishing, recreation and non-use values.

Hawaiian Islands

The whale watching industry plays a strong role in the state's economy as it contributes up to $11 million in total revenues annually with a total economic impact of up to $74 million per year.