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Research Technical Report

The Potential Economic Impacts of the Proposed Central Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Scorse, J. and J. Kildow (September 2014)

Unpublished report prepared for the Sierra Club of California, 29pp.


The U.S. National Marine Sanctuary designation process is being reopened after 20 years, and coastal communities across the country are being encouraged to submit nominations. In response, there is a proposal for a new California Central Coast Marine Sanctuary, stretching from the Channel Islands to the northern tip of San Luis Obispo County. This report provides our best estimates from available and extrapolated information, of the potential economic impact on San Luis Obispo County, if this proposed National Marine Sanctuary becomes a reality.

Communities seek Sanctuary designation for many reasons, including the preservation of unique cultural and natural resources, permanent prevention of offshore oil and gas development, or improving their local economies. This report focuses on the economic impacts possible from such a designation. Our results show that overall, the proposed Central Coast National Marine Sanctuary could add, at minimum 23 million dollars per year to the local economy and create almost 600 new jobs.

Our estimates draw from four channels of revenue and job generation we investigated:

1. Government expenditures on Sanctuary offices, staff, and infrastructure, as well as additional research money raised by Sanctuary staff

2. Money raised by local NGOs and academics to conduct Sanctuary-related research

3. Increased coastal tourism and the increases in relevant business revenues from it (due to both market signaling and improved ocean and coastal resource stewardship)

4. Increased property values, property taxes, and business, local, state and federal tax revenues due to Sanctuary proximity

It is important to note that these totals are conservative estimates and depend on the extent to which a) the Sanctuary staff aggressively market the unique natural, cultural, and historic resources as a focal point for preservation and education, b) the local tourist industry markets the Sanctuary, c) academics and NGOs seek to leverage the Sanctuary for research funding, d) the amounts of funding forthcoming from the Federal Government, and e) the extent to which Sanctuary policies lead to tangible improvements in coastal ecosystems.

A byproduct of this work is an appendix with an extensive bibliography of relevant literature, which we compiled to ensure we used all available information for this report.

We hope our report will serve to better inform the local community and help to determine whether the major effort required to submit a nomination for a new Sanctuary designation is in the region's best interests.


Reviewed: April 11, 2024
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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