The Phoenix Flyer

Study: Keys Marine Sanctuary generates $4.4 billion for FL a year

By: - July 30, 2019 12:13 pm

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Will Benson photo

A new study says that the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary generates $4.4 billion for the state’s economy, but that a severe algae outbreak could cause a $1.5 billion economic hit.

The sanctuary, a popular diving and fishing destination stretching from Miami to the Tortugas, also provides 43,000 Florida jobs, the study by TBD Economics found. In the Keys, 54 percent of jobs and 60 percent of all spending are related to tourism, the researchers found.

Pollution from sewage, manure, and fertilizer that causes algae outbreaks along the coral reef system is a critical threat. In a so-called “normal year,” researchers estimate that economic losses from algae outbreaks at the marine sanctuary could cause an economic hit of $389 million. An “extreme” algae outbreak “could cause up to $1.5 billion in damages,” the economic researchers found.

The sanctuary contains North America’s only coral barrier reef and more than 6,000 species of marine life, and tourists flock to the region. The study says the Florida Keys gets 3 million overnight visitors a year, and more than 400,000 day visitors. Key West hosts about 750,000 cruise ship visitors a year.

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Julie Hauserman
Julie Hauserman

Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.