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Beaches mean business

By Staff | Jan 19, 2011

What does the coastal economy mean to the national economy? Plenty, according to one agency’s annual look at economic energy. Add up the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of this country’s 673 coastal counties and it came to $7.9 trillion in 2007 (the last year measured) — more than half of the total U.S. GDP. In fact, if the country’s coastal economy were broken out, it would rank second in global GDP … behind the United States itself.

That translates to jobs: 69 million of them in 2007, paying some $3.4 trillion in wages that year. This means more than half of the country’s jobs are found in coastal counties, which could mean the seeds to an eventual economic recovery must be sown along the nation’s shorelines first.

These statistics come from the National Ocean Economics Program, an arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). State-by-state breakdowns and more detail are available online at www.oceaneconomics.org.

The NOAA’s “State of the Coast” report stated that, “Given the concentration of economic production, population and infrastructure along the coast, we must work to maintain the integrity of those natural resources that make these areas highly desirable to visit, live and work.”

A different look at the coastal economy focused on coastal-dependent business and jobs as a way to help balance the discussion of coastal uses. This was done by contrasting the economic impact of healthy coastline activities with the economic impact of potentially harmful coastline activities.

The report, titled “Too Much At Stake: Don’t Gamble with Our Coasts,” was produced by the Sierra Club and Environment America. This report looked at the economic activity and jobs generated by coastal activities (primarily tourism and fishing) at a state and regional level around the country. The report found that:

• Coastal dependent business accounts for $225 billion annually, more than 85 percent of that from leisure and hospitality (tourism) industries. Recreational fishing brings in 12 percent and commercial fishing 3 percent.

• Coastal dependent jobs total more than 4.5 million — 86 percent in tourism, 9 percent in commercial fishing and 5 percent in recreational fishing.

• The West Coast region (Washington to California) leads in both coastal business and job totals, followed closely by the North Atlantic region (Maine to New Jersey).

According to the report’s summary, “Not only are the oceans and coast ‘worth more wild’ economically, but they host an amazing variety and abundance of special places and unique wildlife. Our coasts are lined with beaches, national parks and wildlife refuges, sensitive bays and estuaries. We have an immense storehouse of biological diversity and unique marine ecosystems in our offshore waters. All these would be threatened by coastal industrialization….”

The full report can be downloaded from www.environmentamerica.org/home/reports/report-archives/ocean-conservation/healthy-oceans/too-much-at-stake-dont-gamble-with-our-coasts.

Founded in 1926, the ASBPA promotes the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. For more information, visit www.asbpa.org.