Economic Fishery Valuation of Five Vegetation Communities in Lake Okeechobee, Florida

Vegetated areas of the littoral zone of Lake Okeechobee were sampled with 0.8-ha block nets during fall 1989, 1990, and 1991 to estimate fish assemblages and standing crops in 5 vegetation communities common in Florida. Data were used in conjunction with economic impact data of known-cause fish kill events, Rule 17-11.01 (animal damage valuation), Chapter 403, Florida Statutes, to estimate monetary values of the fisheries of important Lake Okeechobee vegetation communities. Mean total impact values per hectare of vegetated area ranged from $44,626 for Illinois pondweed (Potamogeton illinoensis) to $59,738 for hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata). Replacement economic values made up at least 88.9% of the total impact value in the valuation of all vegetation types. Recreational values per hectare of vegetated area ranged from $447 for eel-grass (Vallisneria americana) to $5,378 for bulrush (Scirpus californicus and S. validus). Commercial values contributed nominally to the total impact values, constituting no more than 0.06% in the valuation of each vegetation type. Fish species that provided the greatest economic value were bluefin killifish (Lucania goodei), eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki), bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), largemouth bass (Micropertus salmoides), and redear sunfish (L. microlophus). Economic valuation of fisheries habitat may be used as a method of managing aquatic habitat in multiple resource water systems.

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