Socioeconomic Study of Florida Reefs

Client: Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties (Florida), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and NOAA
Location: Florida

Hazen and Sawyer performed extensive survey research to measure the economic contribution and the use values of artificial and natural reefs in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties over the twelve-month period of June 2000 to May 2001. This study was co-funded by the four counties, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Project Outcomes and Benefits

  • The Hazen and Sawyer project team estimated the total economic contribution from artificial and natural reefs, finding reef-related expenditures generated between $138 million and $1.0 billion in income, and between 6,300 and 36,000 full- and part-time jobs, per county.
  • The value placed on the reef systems by residents and visitors was estimated from a contingent valuation survey, finding visitors and residents would be willing to pay $255 million annually to protect artificial and natural reefs in their existing condition.

The 5,100 reef users surveyed were resident and visitor boaters who are recreational fishers, reef divers, reef snorkelers and/or visitors viewing the reefs on glass-bottom boats. (Photo Courtesy of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary)

This study found that reef users spent 28 million visitor days on artificial and natural reefs in the four counties during the twelve-month study period.

Aerial view of coral reef off of Key Largo, Florida (Photo by Amy Massey, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary)

The five counties and NOAA use the results of this study for planning and justifying reef-related projects, in performing damage assessments, and in public relations. (Photo taken by Paige Gill, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary)

The 5,100 reef users surveyed were resident and visitor boaters who are recreational fishers, reef divers, reef snorkelers and/or visitors viewing the reefs on glass-bottom boats. An intercept survey of 3,900 general visitors was also conducted. Overall reef users spent 28 million visitor days on artificial and natural reefs in the four counties during the twelve-month study period.

As residents and visitors spend money in the county to participate in reef-related recreation, income and jobs are created within the county as a result. The project team estimated the total economic contribution from artificial and natural reefs. For instance, reef-related expenditures generated between $138 million and $1.0 billion in income per county. In addition, reef activities supported between 6,300 and 36,000 full and part time jobs per county in Southeast Florida. Separate values were also estimated for artificial versus natural reefs.

The value placed on the reef systems by residents and visitors was estimated from a contingent valuation survey. Use value is the maximum amount of money that reef users are willing to pay to maintain the reefs in their existing condition by maintaining water quality, limiting damage to reefs from anchoring, and preventing overuse of the reefs. Overall, visitors and residents would be willing to pay $255 million annually to protect artificial and natural reefs in their existing condition. Separate values were also estimated for artificial versus natural reefs.

The five counties and NOAA use the results of this study for planning and justifying reef-related projects, in performing damage assessments and in public relations.

For more information on this project, or to discuss a similar project in your area, contact

Grace Johns, Ph.D. at gjohns@hazenandsawyer.com