Economic value of marine protected species 

Protecting a species through laws and policies implies that society considers these species to be valuable. Economics can be used to assess the value (in dollar terms) that people have for preserving a species for future generations regardless of whether they ever view the species or not. These methods are known as non-market valuation.

NOAA Fisheries economists recently conducted a study to measure the value the nation has for recovering eight marine species that are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Results show that society places a high value on recovering these species - $13 billion for just three species (leatherback sea turtle, North Pacific right whale and North Atlantic right whale). This suggests that the benefits from recovering these species far outweigh the costs of current conservation measures aimed at reducing their risk of extinction and also justifies increased science funding to preserve these species.

Economic value of scientific information

Because the risk of being wrong could result in extinction, protected species management must be risk averse. Thus, scientific information with a high degree of uncertainty results in stricter management measures.

All survey information includes some amount of statistical error and uncertainty. We know that the more data we collect, the more precise our estimate will be, and the more confident we can be in setting regulations that balance fishing activity and species protection.

A recent NOAA Fisheries study found that a modest annual increase of $217,000 for data collection could improve the precision of the Northwest Atlantic harbor porpoise stock assessment such that profits to commercial fishermen would increase by $850,000 per year.


 Column A
Fleet Economic
Column B
Cost to improve
Net Benefits
Column A less
Column B
Option 1:
Low Precision
Option 2:
High Precision
Difference between