Study Says U.S. Values Hawaii Reefs at $33.57 Billion

Byline: Audrey McAvoy | Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — Americans peg the value of coral reefs around the main Hawaiian Islands at $33.57 billion, a study commissioned by the federal government reported.

Officials frequently cite coral reefs as being vital to tourism and other industries. But there’s been no dollar figure to accompany such statements — so, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) asked researchers to study the issue.

“Scientists and governments charged with protecting coral reefs have been saying for a long time that they’re valuable, but there really aren’t good estimates in a very comprehensive thorough study of what these dollar values are,” said Norman Meade, senior economist in NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration. “This is an attempt to get to that question.”

It’s difficult to put a price on coral reefs, which can’t be bought and sold. So, researchers arrived at the figure by surveying 3,200 Americans across the nation and asking them how much of their income taxes they would want devoted to hypothetical initiatives to improve the health of Hawaii’s reefs.

Based on what respondents said, researchers estimated the average American household would be willing to have $287.62 of its taxes spent on protecting Hawaii’s reefs. They multiplied this figure by the 116.7 million households in the nation for the $33.57 billion total.

Researchers explained to respondents that any funds spent on reefs would come at the expense of other federal programs, so that the survey would reflect how Americans felt about coral relative to other priorities, including Medicare, education and defense, according to NOAA.

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