Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 6-2021


This study builds on the work completed in 2009, “The Economic and Market Value of Coasts and Estuaries: What’s At Stake?,” a report by NOAA in collaboration with the Center for the Blue Economy and the Ocean Foundation, at the request of Restore America’s Estuaries. Like the 2009 study, the 2021 update uses the same data sources (Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis and NOAA), and looks in detail at the same five major sectors of the U.S. economy (fisheries, energy infrastructure, marine transportation, real estate, and recreation) from 2009-2018.

The 2021 update includes the economic value of natural coastal infrastructure and coastal blue carbon storage for six regions:

• Great Egg Harbor, New Jersey

• Palmico Sound and the Lower Neuse River, North Carolina

• Tampa Bay, Florida

• Terrebonne Basin, Louisiana

• San Pablo Bay, California

• Snohomish River Estuary, Washington

For the six areas above, a thirty-year data set,1970-2020, was included in addition to the key economic metrics, drawn from NOAA data and premised on two fundamental principles: First, that natural infrastructure and blue carbon value is derived from the ability of these systems to avoid future economic damages; Secondly, and most important, the actual value is dependent on keeping existing wetlands intact. The reduction or elimination of flood losses and the avoided release of carbon stores are what determine the economic value.

“The Economic Value of America’s Estuaries, 2021 Report,” has two main purposes: to update our understanding of the contributions of estuary regions to the economy of the U.S, and to expand our understanding of those values by examining the values provided by reduction in flood damages (natural infrastructure function) and the value provided by storing carbon dioxide (the blue carbon function).

This report provides decision makers a methodolgically sound baseline for both of those criteria, and it provides the basis for some good news: we can mitigate the most dire climate impacts by investing in and protecting America’s estuaries, deltas, bays, coastlines and Great Lakes.