The Economic Impacts of Marine Debris on Tourism-Dependent Communities
Beach in Delaware.
Beaches in Delaware and Maryland were included in a study analyzing the economic impacts of marine debris on tourism-dependent communities. (Photo: NOAA)

Economists with Abt Associates are conducting an economic study to understand how marine debris affects the economies of tourism-dependent coastal communities.

Type of Project: Research

Region: California, Gulf of Mexico, Mid-Atlantic, and the Great Lakes

Project Dates: September 2016 – March 2019

Who is involved?
Economists from Abt Associates, with funding and support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, are conducting a marine debris tourism economic study to understand how marine debris affects the economies of tourism-dependent coastal communities.

What is the project and why is it important?
Marine debris is a growing threat to marine and freshwater environments, affecting animals that interact with it, assisting the long-range transport of species that settle on it, and accruing economic costs to different industries. Marine debris can affect several economic sectors including aquaculture, fisheries, commercial shipping, recreational boating, local coastal governments, coastal tourism, and emergency response services. The costs associated with marine debris can be direct (i.e., beach cleanups, gear replacement) or indirect (i.e., impacts to biodiversity and ecosystem services). To date, few studies have addressed the costs to society associated with marine debris, limiting the ability to construct effective and efficient policy instruments.

In order to better understand the impacts of marine debris on tourism around the country, the NOAA Marine Debris Program is partnering with Abt Associates to conduct a Regional Pilot Study in a first attempt to link beach trip choices with estimates of marine debris at beaches. The regions of interest for this work include the Great Lakes (OH), Mid-Atlantic (DE), Gulf of Mexico (AL), and West Coast (CA). Using this information and data from the previous Orange County study, we can evaluate changes in tourism spending based on increases or decreases in marine debris, improve our understanding of the economic impact of marine debris, and prioritize areas of the United States where future prevention and removal efforts might be needed.