Non-Market Value of the Coast – Benefits Regularly Taken for Granted

Economists estimate non-market economic value from the nation's ocean and coastal resources to be over $100 billion a year (NOEP, 2009c).

Economists make a fundamental distinction between market and non-market goods and services. While the monetary value of seafood is priced in a market, goods and services like beach visits, wildlife viewing, snorkeling at a coral reef, and storm surge protection from wetland habitats do not have values regularly reflected in market transactions.

As an example, citizens visiting our nation's beaches traditionally do not pay admission. The non-market value of this experience can be described as the amount these citizens would be willing to pay to recreate on these beaches. One study estimates this value at $11.98 to $84.49 per trip to North Carolina beaches (Bin et al., 2005). Likewise, views of and access to coastal and ocean environments can be a source of non-market value. Homes with unobstructed ocean and bay views can be sold for a price 70 percent to 200 percent higher than those without views (Major and Luscht 2004).

Ecosystem service valuation methods have the potential to provide information that can be used to demonstrate the direct and indirect economic benefits of different nonmarket goods and services. The estimation of economic benefits can assist managers with decision making, as well as increase the public’s general understanding of the economic importance and value of habitats.

While our current state of knowledge is incomplete, individual studies demonstrate significant monetary non-market value associated with coastal and ocean resources. Non-market value must be included in associated policy- and decision-making processes.


Coastal Wetlands protect communites from coastal storms and erosion

Coastal wetlands protect communites from coastal storms and erosion. Credit: NOAA

For more information:

National Ocean Economics Program: Non-Market Value Overview

Closer Look

Relevant Links

NOAA's Spatial trends in Coastal Socioeconomics (STICS)

NOAA's Economics: National Ocean Watch (ENOW)

National Ocean Economics Program