Grant: 14-025R
Project Title: Marine Turtle Valuation: An economic impact study of conservation in Brevard County, Florida
Project Manager: Kendra Cope
Organization: University of Central Florida (Research and Educational Institute)
Grant Amount: $8,279.00
Completion Date: 2015-07-15

Summary: An increasing number of studies have shown economic valuation has the potential to promote conservation efforts, increase economic benefits to local or regional governments, and increase awareness and education of the focal species. For example, Troeng and Drews (2004) determined that non-consumptive recreational use of turtles, in the form of educational tours, generates three times more gross profit and supplies thousands of more jobs than traditional consumptive uses. Despite the existence of a marine turtle-based tourism industry in the United States, no one has quantified the economic impact of its conservation and education activities. We propose to design and conduct an economic impact study for marine turtle-related tourism for Brevard County, Florida, an area that hosts the densest turtle nesting beach in North America: the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. During the 2014 turtle-nesting season, we will analyze the degree to which these tours impact the county’s economy. Through the months of June and July an estimated 3000 surveys will be distributed to willing turtle walk participants. These surveys will consist of two parts: questions detailing an estimation of economic impact and questions assessing the demographics of participants. This project will address multiple goals set forth by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Turtle Protection Program. Data collected during the study can be used for community outreach, promotion of future wildlife tourism, management decisions, and political support for future analyses of marine turtles’ impacts on local economies.

Results: Survey distribution and data collection occurred during the 2014 summer months of June and July (See 6-month report). During the month of October 2014, the consolidated data were imported into the IMPLAN software, and multiple models were created to determine the best representation of true economic impact of these educational tours on the local community. Our results indicate a conservative estimate of $228,000 in economic impact to the local economy as a result of the two-month turtle walk time period in Brevard and Indian River Counties. During the spring of 2015, multiple presentations of study results were made at a variety of scientific and public venues. During all talks, we acknowledged the Sea Turtle License Plate Grants Program and funding. Results showed that Turtle Walks in this area were attended by world-wide travelers, often people found out about the walks through word of mouth, the walks indirectly created 3 jobs and there was a positive financial impact to the area.