Hawaiian Coral Reefs Valued At $33.5 Billion
October 22, 2011

Hawaiian Coral Reefs Valued At $33.5 Billion

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) survey of U.S. residents has discovered that Americans estimate the value of Hawaii's coral reefs at $33.57 billion per year, the scientific agency reported on Friday.

According to an NOAA press release, the organization conducted a "scientifically developed national Internet survey of more than 3,100 households" from throughout the entire country, not just the state of Hawaii or the coastal area, from June through October 2009.

"The survey allowed the public to express its preferences and values for protection and restoration of the coral reef ecosystems around the main Hawaiian Islands," the media advisory said. "In this study, total economic value includes so-called passive use values, such as the willingness to pay to protect the coral reef ecosystem for future generations, as well as direct use values, such as snorkeling over a coral reef or consuming fish supported by coral reef ecosystems."

Information about the state's coral reef ecosystems were provided to the survey designers by a team of university and private-sector scientists, both from Hawaii and from the continents U.S., the NOAA said. The panel also created two different management options, each of which would impact the ecosystem in a different way.

"The descriptions, including illustrations, of improvement to coral ecosystems gave survey respondents a clear understanding of what they were being asked to value and how the ecosystems would change as a result of the protection measures," the press release said.

"To estimate underlying values the public places on coral reef ecosystems, the study team presented survey participants with two specific measures to protect and restore coral reef ecosystems," NOAA added. "One measure aimed at reducing effects to coral ecosystems from fishing, and another to repair reefs damaged by ships."

The survey was funded by the NOAA and the National Science Foundation (NSF), and was reportedly designed to address the issue of Internet bias. It was conducted through a pair of different online panels, one of which recruited subjects through controlled random-digit dialing telephone surveys, and the other which randomly selected households by visiting them and interviewing participants in person, the NOAA press release stated.

"NOAA will use this study to provide a reliable estimate of the value of the coral reef ecosystem around the main Hawaiian Islands," they said. "It also demonstrates that coral reefs provide valuable ecological services for U.S. residents, regardless of whether they actually use them."

"The study shows that people from across the United States treasure Hawaii's coral reefs, even though many never get to visit them," NOAA Administrator and Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere Dr. Jane Lubchenco added. "It illustrates the economic value of coral reefs to all Americans, and how important it is to conserve these ecosystems for future generations."


Image Caption: This is a small moray eel in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Maui. Credit: NOAA


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