Economic benefits of SCUBA diving in no-take marine reserves

There’s convincing science that no-take marine reserves help recover rockfish, abalone, and other threatened or endangered species that call these rocky habitats home. But what are the economic costs and benefits of marine reserves?

Most of the existing data is about the costs of marine reserves. For example, marine reserves limit fishing, and therefore have a negative effect on the commercial and recreational fishing industry.

But very little is known about the economic benefits of no-take marine reserves.

A new SeaDoc project will quantify the economic benefit of appropriately designed no-take marine reserves to the SCUBA diving industry and local economies.

Over 100 dive shops in Washington and British Columbia train and equip thousands of divers annually. These recreational divers spend handsomely to maintain their certification, purchase equipment, travel to dive sites, procure lodging, and pay for dive charters. But no one has ever conducted an economic valuation of SCUBA diving in the Salish Sea.

Resource decisions are often a trade-off between benefits to the target species and economic impacts to the people that rely on them to make a living or for recreation. Missing from this trade-off is a proper accounting for the extra economic activity that can be created by an effort to save fish and wildlife.

Project results will have a direct impact on efforts by NOAA Fisheries and the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife as they consider the merits of establishing a network of no-take reserves for rockfish recovery. Results will also be shared with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Canada as they re-evaluate the effectiveness of their Rockfish Conservation Areas.

This project is sponsored by a generous private contribution, without which it would not be possible.



Banner photo courtesy of Janna Nichols.