A new Mississippi State study confirms that commercial sport fishing is both good recreation and very good business—more than $35 million in good business, to be exact.
A recent research project by the university's Forest and Wildlife Research Center focused both on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the state as a whole. Forestry graduate student Emily Loden of Fulton surveyed 630 anglers and marine activity participants during 2001 to gather data on spending patterns and recreational choices.
She found that marine-related economic impacts totaled $31.8 million in coastal Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson counties and $35.9 million statewide. Additionally, coastal marine resources supported 585 regional jobs and nearly 100 statewide full- and part-time jobs.
Funded by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, the study was designed to help policy-makers and the public realize the economic value on areas of low-impact natural resource-based recreation activities, said Steve Grado, an associate professor of forestry.
"We knew that marine-related recreational and tourism expenditures contributed to both the state and local economy," Grado said. "Little information was available, however, on the actual economic impacts of marine resources of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
To fill the information void, the MSU research team looked at a variety of activities, including on-shore fishing, fishing tournaments, and marine-related museums, festivals and educational centers.
Policy-makers and the public are often challenged with land-use issues, often between developing and conserving the resource,” Grado explained. "Placing an economic value on activities justifies funding of existing public areas and also validates the building of additional public sites.”
The study recommended that the amount and quality of public outdoor recreation sites and events on the Mississippi Gulf Coast be increased and improved to promote the use and conservation of marine resources. Doing so will correspondingly increase their economic values.
"Our research clearly indicates that fishing and related activities on the Gulf Coast benefit the three coastal counties and Mississippi,” said MSU wildlife biologist Jeanne Jones, an associate professor of wildlife and fisheries. "Further research is needed on a multi-state level to estimate the economic impacts of marine-related activities on the entire Gulf of Mexico.”
To better assess overall marine angling expenditures in Mississippi, the researchers also called for additional study of expenditures by private pier operators and private-boat marine anglers.
"Studies such as these will aid governmental entities in decision-making crucial to the conservation of these coastal ecosystems and are important in determining more precisely the value of Mississippi's natural resources,” Jones said.
For more information on the study, contact Grado at (662) 325-2792 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Jones, at 325-2219 or email@example.com.