Image by The Tampa Bay Estuary Program

Harmful Algal Bloom Economic Impact Data Dashboard

Client: Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA)
Location: State of Florida

For over five years, Gulf of Mexico states dealt with nearly annual appearances of massive Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) that impacted tourism, fishing and coastal ecosystems. The Balmoral Group conducted groundbreaking work linking social media activity with economic activity for the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA), in a project evaluating the economic effects of Harmful Algal Blooms. The research objectives of this project focused on quantifying the linkages between economic outcomes and Gulf of Mexico coastal health, specifically HABs.  The study estimated revenues from restaurants, hotels, fishing and boating industries, and ecotourism based on linkage to social media and scientific (cell count) data during the 2018-2019 Harmful Algal Bloom. 

Results from the project were intended to enable resource managers and their state and federal partners to quantify the economic implications for HABs and their avoidance, and assess restoration investments and/or management actions. The tools developed in this project estimated impacts measured in revenues, employment, wages and property values – values the public can understand. An important discovery was the critical linkage between social media metrics and economic impacts – as opposed to linkage between scientific data (HAB cell counts) and economic effects, which was weak or non-existent. To our knowledge, this was the first work to link economic impacts relating to Harmful Algal Blooms to social media activity. An online dashboard was developed and published which allows users to assess the economic impacts across time, geography and type (tourism, fishing, property values, etc.). The dashboard was designed to use publicly available data and thereby able to be replicated and transferrable to other Gulf States.