As debate re-emerges over oil drilling in Florida's state-waters, a new study finds that Florida's Gulf Coast generates $32.8 billion dollars annually in coastal tourism and fishing business revenue and provides 335,581 jobs.
Yesterday, Environment Florida and the Sierra Club released the new report, "Too Much at Stake," joined by tourism and fishing businesses that rely on pristine beaches and clean oceans. The report finds that the tremendous economic and biological value of clean beaches far outweighs the value of oil and gas off the eastern Gulf.
BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill illustrates the damage that one large spill can cause to a coastline, its wildlife, and its economy. When oil washed up on the beaches of Pensacola it devastated the local community and hurt tourism state-wide.
Last week, the Obama Administration reaffirmed the value of Florida's beaches with an announcement to maintain a federal ban on offshore oil and gas drilling in new areas.
Chasidy Fisher Hobbs, Executive Director with Emerald Coastkeeper said, "The announcement by the Obama Administration to keep the eastern Gulf of Mexico's waters protected from offshore drilling is encouraging. BP's disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico proves that oil drilling is still a dirty and dangerous business and not worth the risk to the livelihood of millions of coastal residents and business owners. However, we still have to ensure Florida Legislators do not open State waters to drilling."
Using government data, the report also finds that the annual value of tourism and fishing along Florida's eastern Gulf coast is 3 times higher than the annual value of any oil or gas that might be found there. Drilling doesn't even make economic sense for Florida since sustainable business like tourism and fishing are worth so much more than oil and gas extraction.
In addition to the large economic benefits that flow from use and enjoyment of the ocean, the report highlights the special marine ecosystems, treasured beaches and extraordinary marine life in our waters. Florida has well loved beaches from Pensacola and Destin to St. Petersburg Beach all the way down to the Florida Keys. Should oil from a spill enter the Gulf's "loop current," oil could harm the National Marine Sanctuary - an incredibly ecologically sensitive and unique system of coral reefs and diverse species.
Sarah Bucci, an associate with Environment Florida said "Our research makes it clear that clean beaches and oceans are worth much more than drilling for the last drops of oil off our coasts. Drilling is simply not worth the risk, so we are thanking Tampa area Representatives Kathy Castor and Bill Young for their work to protect the coast and ask the Florida legislature to maintain the current protections on state-waters."
Emerald Coastkeeper is a non-profit, grassroots organization in northwest Florida committed to protecting water quality. Learn more at www.emeraldcoastkeeper.org.