Recreational saltwater boating contributed $3.5 billion to the Northeast's economy last year and supported the equivalent of 27,000 jobs, according to a study.
The findings highlight the economic power of the 374,000 recreational boaters along the region's coast as local ocean development appears poised to accelerate, according to the Associated Press. Aquaculture pens, wind farms and offshore utility lines are examples of existing or proposed ocean uses and boaters want a voice about such projects in waters they share.
Since the survey ties significant jobs and economic growth to boating, that can expand the industry's influence, Connecticut Marine Trades Association president Grant Westerson told the AP.
Despite the historical foothold, there's little data about recreational saltwater boaters, such as the routes they take to get where they're going and how much they spend when they get there. That data gap became a potential liability as various interests sought a voice in implementing President Barack Obama's national ocean policy, which aims to create a balanced approach to ocean use.
About 12,000 randomly selected boaters participated in the survey, conducted between May and October 2012 by the nonprofit ocean research group SeaPlan, the Northeast Regional Ocean Council, state coastal planners, private industry and the First Coast Guard District.
The survey estimated that local boaters made 907,000 marine recreational boating trips in 2012, contributing a total of $3.5 billion to the economies of the coastal Northeast states surveyed, from Maine to New York. That's roughly equal to the domestic seafood industry's economic impact in 2012 dollars in those six states, according to federal statistics from 2009, adjusted for inflation.
Boaters spent an average of about $1,150 on boating trips last year (including about $200 at restaurants) and more than $7,000 just visiting, docking and maintaining their boat.
The study indicates that boating supported 27,000 jobs across several sectors, with leisure and hospitality (7,700) and trade, transportation and utilities (6,700) the top two.