There is some controversy surrounding the valuation of nature, or our need to put a dollar amount on the environment as part of conservation.
I dislike the notion on an emotional level for two main reasons. 1) How can we really put a price on clean air, or blue skies? and 2) What happens if the value isn’t competitive? Ecosystems are highly complex, if we undervalue one part, how do we know the rest doesn’t all collapse as well. It upsets me to think that if you can put a price on something, that something can be bought, traded, and devalued like a commodity. But we are talking about our planet, it is not simply a thing. On the other hand, my practical side knows that it is only way to make people truly understand the risk.
In marine debris we don’t talk about money too often. Yes, marine litter has a detrimental impact on coastal economies, fishing economies, and shipping economies, but these are challenging to calculate. Instead focus tends to stay on wildlife, and now micro plastics. But if monetary terms is the only way to get people to understand what is at risk, then we must talk money.
The National Ocean Economics Program looks at the revenue brought in my ocean and coastal activities, estimating how dependent a city, or state might be on the ocean. In 2006, they did an assessment of Florida. No surprise, Florida’s economy is hugely dependent on the ocean. Some highlights from the report:
- Florida’s ocean economy is $23.2 billion (~4.5% of the gross state product)
- Florida’s coastal economy is over $400 billion
- The non-market value of beaches in Florida range from $3.5 to 17.7 billion annually
- The non-market value of recreational fishing ranges from $3.4 to 5.6 billion
- Shoreline counties make up 56% of land area, but contribute 77% of the state’s total economy.
Clearly ocean health is important for Florida, but how do we monetize the threat?
No studies have been conducted in Florida looking at how litter on beaches might deter tourists, or if ghost fishing is hurting local fisheries. This seems like something worth knowing. If there is money at stake, maybe we could find funding to support mitigation education and clean ups.
Read more about NOEP here