About the Center

The Concept

Coasts and estuaries are important components of the American economic engine. According to the National Ocean Economics Program, more than $1 trillion of annual economic activity resides in the coastal zone. Ocean-dependent activities, including tourism, recreation, fisheries, and marine transportation contribute over $100 billion to our national economy each year. Yet despite the economic importance of the ocean, we still know very little about local ocean and coastal economies. How many homes in an estuary are at risk due to sea level rise? What are they worth? How many bird watchers might benefit from marine protection? How many anglers may be displaced? What is the economic value of new beach access? Who might benefit?

There has never been a systematic, nationwide attempt to quantify and value the local economic contributions of recreational fishing, boating, beach going, bird watching, kayaking, and other economic activities that depend on healthy marine and coastal ecosystems. As a result, decisions about coastal management, preservation, and conservation are made in an arena where the economic value of commercial fishing and coastal development are given disproportionate weight over other potentially important coastal uses. Even worse, we cannot monitor the economic health of our coasts and oceans, and thus the effectiveness of current coastal programs, without a national, integrated time series of data on economic and environmental indicators.

The Coastal Ocean Values Center will close this critical data gap by working with the National Estuary Programs, Estuarine Research Reserves, Marine Sanctuaries, local coastal programs and our partners at the Waterkeepers Alliance, Surfrider, and Restore America’s Estuaries to collect a national system of long-term economic indicators of coastal ecosystem health. The Coastal Ocean Values Center is a home for research, analysis and outreach to make a nationwide system of economic coastal indicators a reality.

Our Mission:

Create a national program of coordinated research and data collection on economic indicators of coastal ecosystem health.

Educate the public and coastal managers about the economic importance of coastal activities.

Provide economic data and analysis to improve coastal and ocean management.

Our Approach:

Original Research
We focus on collecting and analyzing data to meet the needs of coastal managers, stakeholders and advocates. Our research includes
- a program to develop a national set of ECONOMIC INDICATORS OF COASTAL HEALTH,
- the development of surveys to assess and monitor private coastal uses and users
- valuation studies of critical marine and coastal resources
Communities of Practice
Research does not influence policy unless we can get data and analysis into the hands of stakeholders and policymakers.
We are developing Communities of Practice to empower local coastal managers and stakeholders
- to collect their own data,
- to learn from each other and the COVC
- to share data and results
- to become integrated into a national program of data collection and analysis
The Coastal Ocean Values Expedition (C.O.V.E.)
The C.O.V.E. is a first-of-its-kind expedition to raise awareness about and collect policy relevant economic indicator data on the economic value of our estuaries, bays, and oceans. Directed by Dr. Linwood Pendleton, the C.O.V.E. has three goals:
- Raise public awareness of the economic importance of estuaries and coasts and the environmental impacts of recreational use through public lectures given from the stern of our research vessel "Indicator" and through interviews with local and national media.

- Train coastal management and restoration professionals to use economic information about estuaries, bays, and coasts by developing and implementing local and regional workshops with support from NOAA's Coastal Services Center and the National Ocean Economics Program.

- Initiate the self-sustaining collection of economic indicators of marine and estuarine ecosystem health by working with the National Estuary Programs (NEPs), the National Estuary Research Reserves (NERRs), and the National Marine Sanctuaries (NMS) to initiate a national system of regularly collected local economic indicators of coastal ecosystem health. (Based on current research by Dr. Pendleton underway in the Elkhorn Slough (NERR), Morro Bay (NEP), and Santa Monica Bay (NEP)). We will work with the National Ocean Economics Program to collect, analyze, and disseminate the economic indicator data collected by our local partners. (Sample indicators from these sites include recreational angler days and expenditures, charter passenger vessel trips, beach and park visitation, annual bird watcher visitation, dredging volumes and costs, kayaking activity, and diver activity).