Socioeconomic Research & Monitoring Program for Florida Keys

water and clouds in the florida keys

"The primary goal of the Research and Monitoring Program is to provide the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions about protecting the biological and natural ecosystem processes of the Sanctuary and its resources" (FKNMS Final Management Plan, Volume 1, page 148). Reaching this goal requires information on the socioeconomic implications of implementing the sanctuary management plan. Placed beside comparable ecological information, a socioeconomic perspective provides insight into changes in resource use and the contribution of sanctuary actions towards a sustainable economy in the Keys.


This program began in FY 1998 and was designed to complement the sanctuary's ecological monitoring program. In 1998, 50 social scientists and resource stakeholders met to help design the program. This meeting produced over 100 recommendations for socioeconomic monitoring. These recommendations have been prioritized and implemented as funding has become available. New elements are added to the program as they are needed.

Socioeconomic Research & Monitoring Goal

The primary goal of socioeconomic research and monitoring is to detect and document resultant changes in sanctuary resource utilization patterns and their impact on market and nonmarket economic values of sanctuary resources.


To fulfill the socioeconomic research and  monitoring goal requires:

  • Monitoring the spatial pattern and intensity of on-water recreational and commercial use, especially with regard to activities inside sanctuary preservation areas (SPAs) and ecological reserves (ERs).
  • Defining and monitoring indicators of compliance with regulations and enforcement efforts.
  • Monitoring and assessing visitor and resident knowledge of sanctuary management strategies and regulations, and their attitudes and perceptions regarding their appropriateness and effectiveness.
  • Monitoring and assessing socioeconomic impacts on groups whose activities were either enhanced, curtailed or displaced by Sanctuary regulations.
  • Monitoring and assessing the contribution of key "export" sectors of the Monroe County economy (tourism, retirees, residents working outside the county, and commercial fishing) based on their uses of Sanctuary resources.
  • Monitoring and assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of educational programs and public outreach activities related to the FKNMS.

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The most important industry in Monroe County/Florida Keys is the recreation-tourism industry. Recreation-tourism accounts for anywhere between 33% and 75% of the local economy depending on the definition of income (i.e., by place of residence or by place of work). A baseline for recreation-tourism was established in 1995-95 (see Linking the Economy and Environment 1995-96). A 12-year replication was done in 2007-08 (see Linking the Economy and Environment 2007-2008). In 2000-01, a study was done on reef use and economic valuation ). New artificial reefs have also been introduced :U.S.S. Spiegel Grove and theU.S.S. Vandenberg The two artificial reefs sunk in the FKNMS have also been monitored, pre- and post-sinking. This latter effort is designed to test the hypothesis that introducing an artificial reef into a natural reef environment will reduce usage on surrounding natural reefs (see New Artificial Reefs). In 1992 and 2001, socioeconomic studies of the recreational/sport spiny lobster fishery were conducted (see Lobster Survey).

Commercial Fishing

Commercial fishing is one of the key export industries in Monroe County/Florida Keys accounting for between 5-8% of the total income or jobs in the local economy.  Commercial fishing panels have been monitored since 1998 for catch, spatial distribution of catch, and financial performance (see Commercial Fishing Panels).  Much of the emphasis of monitoring has been on the socioeconomic impacts of marine zoning, including the impacts of Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPAs) and Ecological Reserves (ERs), which are no-take areas (see Marine Zoning/Marine Reserves).  Monitoring also includes knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of sanctuary management strategies and regulations (see Knowledge, Attitudes & Perceptions).

Marine Zoning/Marine Reserves

Much of socioeconomic research and monitoring has been focused on the socioeconomic impacts of marine zoning/marine reserves.  In the FKNMS, marine reserves or no-take areas are called Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPAs) and Ecological Reserves (ERs).  SPAs are relatively small and were primarily designed to resolve conflicts between consumptive and non-consumptive users.  ERs are relatively large and were primarily designed for ecosystem protection.  Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) are another type of zoning, which are not no-take areas.  WMAs have been designed to resolve conflicts between user groups.  Much of the effort has been on assessing the socioeconomic impacts of the Tortugas ER.  Assessments were done on analyzing various boundary alternatives and a five-year pre-post assessment of the alternative implemented in an integrated assessment.  A 10-year replication of the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions or sanctuary management strategies and regulations was conducted in 2005-06, which included FKNMS zones for commercial fishers, dive operators, and environmental group members.  Efforts are underway in a 2007-08 study of recreation-tourism on knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of the various FKNMS zones.

Knowledge, Attitudes and Perceptions

In 1995-06, a baseline study was done on the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of FKNMS management strategies and regulations for three user groups:  commercial fishers, dive operators, and environmental group members.  This study was replicated in 2005-06.  In 2007-08, new baselines were addressed for both residents and visitors to Monroe County/Florida Keys as part of the 10-year replication of the study on recreation-tourism.

Under this general topic, we also include importance-satisfaction ratings for 25 natural resource attributes, facilities and services by residents and visitors engaged in outdoor recreation-tourism in the Florida Keys. Measurements provide socioeconomic indicators that have been compared with ecological indicators to identify if perceptions are consistent with objective facts as measured by changes in the ecological indicators. Baseline were taken in 1995-96, were replicated in 2000-01 and in 2007-08. Comparisons were made between socioeconomic and ecological indicators for the 1995-06 and 2000-01 time periods and between 1995-96 and 2007-08.

Climate Change

In 2004, Ove and Hans Hoegh-Guldberg presented a study done on the "Biological, Economic, and Social Impacts of Climate Change on the Great Barrier Reef of Australia" at the 10th Annual Coral Reef Symposium in Okinawa, Japan. Ove is a leading coral ecologist and Hans is an economist. The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force recommended that the study be done in the Florida Keys. In FY 2005, NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) funded a scoping effort by Hans to see if the study could be extended to the Florida Keys. In FY 2007 & 2008, CRCP funded the study in the Florida Keys. The study was included in the Socioeconomic Research & Monitoring Program for the FKNMS and portions of the study were integrated into the 12-year replication of the study on recreation-tourism, however sample sizes in the 2007-08 would not support reliable estimates, but provided an extensive pre-test that will provide guidance in future efforts.