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Gulf of Mexico: In National Survey, Americans Say They'd Protect Gulf Biodiversity

Mar 01, 2016 07:30 AM EST
Scuba divers in the reef ecosystem in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the northern Gulf of Mexico near the Texas-Louisiana border.
(Photo : NOAA)
Most Americans would pay extra taxes to preserve biodiversity in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a national online survey.
(Scroll down to read further...)

Most Americans are up for paying more taxes each year -- for some people as much as $35 to $100 over their current rates -- in support of Gulf of Mexico biodiversity conservation, says a national survey.

That is, in the survey, respondents in 1,500 and more households were asked how willing they were to pay for an expansion of a marine preserve in the northern Gulf, the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, near the Texas-Louisiana border.

"Most households are willing to pay more annually, even with the understanding that only hook-and-line fishing would be allowed within the expanded sanctuary and oil and gas activity would be restricted there," Stephanie F. Stefanski, survey leader and a Ph.D. student at Duke University, said in a statement. (Scroll down to read further...)

Manta above sand bottom of Gulf of Mexico. Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.
(Photo : NOAA Photo Library)
In a national online survey, most Americans said they would be willing to pay additional taxes in order to expand preservation of the Gulf of Mexico's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, near the Texas-Louisiana border. The area contains whale sharks, rays, and several threatened coral reefs.

The sanctuary is located in excess of 70 miles from the coast and it contains a line of reefs above underwater mountains, known as salt domes. The reefs house hundreds of marine species, such as manta rays, sea turtles, whale sharks and types of coral that are threatened.

The sanctuary contains three banks, or reefs. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) administers the site and has proposed expanding the boundaries of all three reefs and including nine additional banks within the sanctuary.

In the 2012 national online survey, researchers found that the range that participants were willing to pay is $35 to $107 more than current taxes, according to a release.

"If we take the average willingness-to-pay amount and multiply it by all the households in America, you have a value equaling billions of dollars over a five-year period," Stefanski said in the release. "Even if this is not precisely correct, it far exceeds NOAA's estimates of needing $15 million in direct costs to manage the expanded sanctuary. This suggests there is strong public support for this type of biodiversity conservation in the gulf."

Respondents in the survey said that they value the ecosystem: "People indicated they wanted to preserve this site because they valued biodiversity, not because they wanted to go diving or fishing there or use it in some other way," Stefanski said. "They placed a value on preserving it for future generations. This speaks to the growing national awareness of the ecological value of the Gulf of Mexico and to all the issues going on down there."

The study findings were recently published in the journal Marine Resource Economics.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

-Follow Catherine on Twitter @TreesWhales

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