Mountains, reefs mean millions for Hawai’i, Kaua’i

Mayor Maryanne Kusaka maintained that the sheer beauty of Kaua’i was a key factor in continuing to draw visitors to the island even after Sept. 11, 2001, when the nation was shell-shocked and wary of air travel.

It was one reason why Kaua’i didn’t suffer as deeply, economically, from the aftermath of the terrorist events, compared to other destinations, she reasoned.

Can a price be put on the value of the mountains and oceans not only in terms of their draw to visitors, but for the enjoyment provided on a daily basis to residents as well?

Probably not.

But new information indicates that the reefs surrounding the state, and the wilderness areas that draw hunters, hikers, mountain bikers, fishermen and others to the state and island, are responsible for bringing millions of dollars into the economy from both visitors and residents.

A recent study commissioned by the Hawai’i Coral Reef Initiative Research Program and performed by the Amsterdam, Holland-based Cesar Environmental Economics Consultants, has established the economic value of Hawai’i’s coral reefs at $10 billion, most of that attributable to tourism and real estate.

Other figures from the report conclude that reefs produce about $360 million in economic benefits for the islands every year, including $325 million spent on things like dive and snorkel trips and related purchases, $2.5 million in the value of aquarium fish collections, and $10 million in money brought in for reef-related scientific research.

A look at the number of Kaua’i dive shops, snorkel-rental businesses, ocean sports attire retail stores, and other ocean-related businesses shows the importance of reefs to the local economy.

And surveys consistently show that a large majority of all visitors to the island plan at least one dip in the ocean while they’re here.

While by their nature out of sight and usually consisting of smaller groups, hunters and anglers, both residents and visitors, are an important economic force for Kaua’i and the state as well.

A national study shows that Hawai’i resident sportsmen spent $130 million in the state last year.

The 17,000 hunters and 150,000 anglers helped fund 2,300 jobs statewide, with combined salaries and wages of $56 million. Some $10 million in state tax revenues were generated by the sportsmen, with an estimated ripple effect on the state economy of some $214 million, according to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

The entities last week released the figures along with a national report on the economic impact of sportsmen on national and state economies.

The $10 million in state sales, fuel and income taxes generated by sportsmen in Hawai’i is enough to fund the annual education expenses of 1,565 Hawai’i public-school students.

There are more sportsmen in Hawai’i than members of labor unions, 151,000 to 124,000. Hawai’i sportsmen annually spend more than the value of the pineapple crop, the state’s leading commodity, $129 million to $101 million.

Annual spending by Hawai’i sportsmen is nearly twice the value of the state’s commercial seafood landings, $130 million to $68.5 million, the report shows.

These figures don’t include expenditures by visitors who hunt, fish, hike, ride bicycles in the mountains, dive, or otherwise enjoy the mauka and makai offerings of Kaua’i and Hawai’i.

On Kaua’i, in the state and nationally, those involved in sporting businesses both as proprietors and consumers share a conservation ethic designed to ensure that the physical beauty they’re enjoying now will be available for future generations.

On the national level, 38 million sportsmen age 16 and older spent more than $70 billion dollars in 2001. That would rank hunters and anglers 11th on the Fortune 500 if they formed a corporation.

The report, The American Sportsman; Take a Closer Look, uses the results from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, and compares hunters’ and anglers’ impact on the economy with other industries.

The American Sportsman; Take a Closer Look report, with national statistics and an interactive map of state-specific information, is available on the Web, at www.sportsmenslink.org.

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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