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Study places the economic value of Sarasota Bay at over $11 billion

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- In a first ever attempt to quantify the value of Sarasota Bay on our economy, the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program has completed a two year analysis, and it shows a healthy bay has a huge impact.

$11.8 billion, that's the value of Sarasota Bay's resources in Sarasota and Manatee counties alone, according to the study.

The analysis, performed by Paul Hindsley of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, found from tourism, to jobs, to recreation, and property values, overall the bay brings in $57.9 billion regionally.  "We found that the value of the Sarasota Bay resource to residential property owners, using residential market transactions, was $3.1 billion."

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For residents living along the bay, the study confirms why they purchased so close to the water, and the impact it will have on future real estate.  "This is a big plus. We see a lot of building in downtown Sarasota now, so obviously I'm not the only one that wants to enjoy what the bay has to offer," says resident Douglas Valentine.

And when it comes to jobs, Sarasota Bay is the source of more than 21,000 jobs throughout the Suncoast.

For many, it's their life's work.  "My whole income is from this bay, and I've been doing this 40 years now.  And I realize what it generates; I know what people spend when they come here to go fishing," says Capt. Jonnie Walker of Bay Walker Charters.

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Traci Kearton, a server at a restaurant in Anna Maria, says not only does the restaurant industry depend on a healthy bay, but its beauty is what the Suncoast is known for.  "It's very important.  I mean, that's what everyone heads out to the pier to see; to be right on the water."

But there are also areas for improvement.  The local estuary program officials say they plan to focus on reducing storm water pollution.

So how can the community, many of whom enjoy the bay while fishing, boating, or paddleboarding,  get involved in protecting this asset?  For those that own homes right along the bay, there are ways to reduce storm water pollution by planting native plants to avoid using fertilizer, which can contaminate the bay. 

For more information on getting involved in protecting the bay, visit http://sarasotabay.org/get-involved/