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August 16, 2000

For more information contact:
Larry Niles at 609-292-9400

A recent study funded by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife revealed that the substantial annual economic benefit of visitors who flock to Delaware Bay each spring to see migrating shorebirds underscores the need to protect horseshoe crabs. The study is the result of concerns that the commercial horseshoe crab harvest along Delaware Bay is reducing the number of shorebirds that rely on the crab eggs for food during their strenuous migration north.

"New Jersey takes very seriously its obligation under international migratory bird protection treaties to preserve the crucial Cape May beaches where exhausted shorebirds rejuvenate themselves on their flight from South America to the Arctic. This report confirms that, as is so often the case when we take a hard look, doing the right thing environmentally is completely in line with our own economic interests," said State Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Shinn.

"All the citizens of New Jersey ought to be proud of the leadership Governor Whitman has taken regionally to protect migratory shorebirds by working to end the excessive harvest of horseshoe crabs," Shinn added. "This report tells us that along with the ecological responsibility to protect migratory birds, we also have a responsibility to nurture the eco-tourism the birds sustain, and to develop and follow regional management strategies that ensure the viability of the horseshoe crab and the fishery as well."

The report, entitled Wildlife-Associated Recreation on the New Jersey Delaware Bayshore: The Economic Impact of Tourism Based on the Horseshoe Crab-Shorebird Migration in New Jersey, is based upon 1998 surveys of more than 600 respondents, including members of the New Jersey Audubon Society and Cape May Bird Observatory, as well as birdwatchers encountered along bayshore beaches during the migration. According to the study, shorebird migration annually generates between $7.8 and $11.8 million in economic benefits to the immediate Delaware Bayshore area. It also generates an additional $700,000 - $1.1 million elsewhere in the State and another $1.7 - $2.8 million elsewhere in the nation, for a total economic benefit of between $9.5 and $15.9 million.

Staying an average of nearly four days and three nights, the typical visitors spent $522 ($463 in the bayshore area) on their most recent visits for lodging, dinners, food and gasoline. Since they also visit other times of the year, the gross economic value of these shorebird watchers' annual trips to the area generate as much as $25 million in the immediate area, another $2.5 million elsewhere in New Jersey and another $6.2 million elsewhere in the U.S. -- a total of $34 million a year.

"Losing the Delaware Bay as an important stopover point for shorebirds on their migration north would have a major economic impact on the area's local communities and the State," said Division Director Bob McDowell. "We could lose a major source of income before most people even realize it exists."

"You don't have to be an environmentalist to understand those numbers," says Ted Lee Eubanks, Jr., president of Fermata, Inc., of Austin, Tex., the report's principal author. Eubanks authored the report with John R. Stoll, Ph.D., a professor of economics and chairperson of the Environmental Science and Policy Graduate Program at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and Paul Kerlinger, Ph.D., the former head of the Cape May Bird Observatory who is a consultant with Curry & Kerlinger, L.L.C. in Cape May Point.

Among the study's other findings:

The study underscores the economic benefit eco-tourism offers local communities. The New Jersey Audubon Society has demonstrated this for years with its highly successful spring and fall birding festivals in Cape May. For other communities interested in emulating Cape May's success, a 15-minute video -- "Birding Festivals: An Economic Force for Conservation" -- is now available. The video illustrates how such festivals can buttress the economic rationale for preserving open space.

The video was produced by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which received financial support from the Division of Fish and Wildlife's Endangered and Nongame Species Program. Free copies are available to interested community leaders by calling 609-292-9450.

NOTE: For a copy of the report Wildlife-Associated Recreation on the New Jersey Delaware Bayshore, call 609-292-9400.