Socioeconomic Research & Monitoring Program for Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale

Humpback whale breaching.

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (sanctuary) lies within the shallow warm waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands and constitutes one of the world's most important humpback whale habitats. Through education, research and resource protection activities, the sanctuary strives to protect humpback whales and their habitat in Hawai'i.

Sanctuary Objectives under Current Authority

Congress designated the sanctuary in 1992 through the Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary Act (HINMSA, Subtitle C of Public Law 102-587, the Oceans Act of 1992). The objectives of the HINMSA are to:

  1. Protect humpback whales and their habitat within sanctuary boundaries;
  2. Educate and interpret for the public the relationship of humpback whales to the Hawaiian Islands marine environment;
  3. Manage such human uses of the sanctuary consistent with the HINMSA and the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (now referred to as the National Marine Sanctuaries Act or NMSA); and
  4. Provide for the identification of marine resources and ecosystems of national significance for possible inclusion in the sanctuary.

Download the fact sheet

Socioeconomics of Resource Protection under Current Authority

The scope of the current authority to protect resources within the sanctuary is described above in Items 1-3. Information currently known on the socioeconomics under this authority is from three studies, linked below.

Download the 2008 Study on Whale Watching Worldwide

Download The Hawaii Boat Industry 2003 - A Survey and Economic Description

Download the 1999 Economic Impact of Whale Watching on the Hawaiian Economy

Socioeconomics of the Main Hawaiian Islands

Item 4 in the above description of the current authority refers to the possible expansion of the future authority of the sanctuary. In the current management plan review process, several options are being considered to expand the authority of the sanctuary to cover other marine resources and ecosystems of national significance.

One key ecosystem under consideration is the coral reef ecosystem. There have been several studies on the socioeconomics of the coral reef ecosystems of the Main Hawaiian Islands through the Hawaiian Coral Reef Initiative (HCRI) conducted through the University of Hawaii. These studies can be found here.

Coral Reef Ecosystem Valuation 

A study was completed in 2011 on the "Total Economic Value" (TEV) of the coral reef ecosystems surrounding the Main Hawaiian Islands. TEV in this study is different from that in the HCRI sponsored study mentioned above. TEV in the current study includes only the net economic value, or the value over and above what people pay for a good or service. This includes the value people have for protecting the coral reef ecosystems of the main Hawaiian Islands by people who will never visit the reefs. TEV in the current study does not include what people actually pay for the goods and services they get from the reefs and the associated impacts on the economy in terms of sales/output, income and employment.

The 2011 study was funded by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program and implemented by NOAA's National Ocean Service, Office of Response and Restoration and Office of National Marine Sanctuaries through a contract with Stratus Consulting, Inc. out of Boulder Colorado.

Please visit NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program for fact sheets, an Executive Summary, and the Main Report.