Journal of Ocean and Coastal Economics

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The recovery of marine megafauna can lead to improved ecosystem function and services, but not all stakeholders may benefit equally. Quantifying the local economic value of a species’ presence may appeal to broader range of stakeholders when developing conservation strategies. This study aims to examine the economic effect recreational activities can have on a local region, and to determine what role the presence of southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) had on the value visitors placed on the visit and the area’s preservation. We surveyed visitors to Elkhorn Slough, a small estuary in California known for diverse wildlife, modeled direct and indirect economic contributions to local economics, and evaluated perceptions and value placed on the area and wildlife. Annually, visitors contributed approximately $3.2 million (USD) in direct spending, with an additional $1.85 million in indirect economic gains, which could support over 300 full-time, part-time, and seasonal jobs to the region. Whether sea otters were observed during a trip influenced how visitors ranked their importance, and the perceived value of the estuary and sea otters. Combined, this study quantified what recreational visitors could contribute to local economies and that sea otters play a role in what visitor’s value about their visit. These results provide additional support to the benefits of species presence at a local scale. We discuss how these types of studies can be used as part of larger species and ecosystem management plans, particularly considering species recovery and range expansion.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.