Stranded capital: environmental stewardship is part of the economy, too
The many values that humans place on biodiversity are widely acknowledged but difficult to measure in practice. We address this problem by quantifying the contribution of marine‐related environmental stewardship, in the form of donations and volunteer hours, to the economy of coastal Massachusetts. Our conservative evaluation suggests that marine stewardship activities contributed at least $179 million to the state economy in 2014, a figure that exceeded revenues derived in that same year from commercial finfish operations ($105 million) and whale watching ($111 million), two acknowledged cornerstones of the regional economy. Almost imperceptibly, the coastal economy has been transformed from one dependent on commercial exchange to a diverse economy that includes, to a large measure, marine stewardship. Donations and volunteer efforts are useful indicators of environmental values that can be hard to quantify, and represent one measure of human determination to protect the planet.