The National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP) was
conceived in 1999 by Dr. Judith T. Kildow (then a professor at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology) for the purpose of providing
policymakers with reliable and consistent data on the value of the
oceans and coasts of the U.S.
The inspiration for the project had come from an
economic study done for the California coast in 1997 (at the suggestion of
Congressman Sam Farr of Monterey, CA) that was released at the California
and the World Oceans Meeting in San Diego that year. Dr. Kildow was
determined to turn that valuable state study into an ongoing national
program. She worked with NOAA to include the idea as one of President
Bill Clinton's 10 priorities that he announced at an historic conference
commemorating "The Year of the Ocean" in 1998. The President's speech was
delivered in a small park overlooking Monterey Bay, California, and the
Congress embraced his priorities when it passed the Ocean Act of 2000.
NOEP began with a seed grant from the National Ocean
Service of NOAA, which was then directed by economist Dr. Nancy Foster.
It was the first attempt to provide social and economic time-series data
for valuing the oceans and coastal zones. NOEP tracked economic and
demographic trends along the coast and coastal oceans, providing a
scientific foundation for studying coastal management and marine policy.
These fields had until then been focused primarily on "one off" case
studies and anecdotal information that failed to provide the connections
and coherence necessary to build larger theories and research agendas.
Phase I: Focus on the U.S.
As the project got underway, Dr. Kildow recruited
Dr. Charles S. Colgan, a professor and regional economist at the
University of Southern Maine. Dr. Colgan is a well-regarded resource
economist who launched the market data section of NOEP. He developed
the unique ocean economy methodology for which NOEP has become known.
To assure the project would meet the requirements of
President Clinton's mandate for ocean accounts, Dr. Kildow recruited a
distinguished and diverse Board of Advisors, setting a high standard for
the work of NOEP. The original board consisted of three MIT economists,
Lester Thurow, Karen Polenske, and Nobel Laureate Robert Solow;
University of California economists Charles Kolstad of UC Santa Barbara
and Michael Hanemann of UC Berkeley; Columbia University economist Giulio
Pontecorvo; a lawyer from the University of Washington, Mark Hershman;
and Karen Garrison from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Over the
twelve years of its life, many other distinguished individuals also
served on the board.
In 2000, Dr. Kildow took early retirement from MIT
and moved NOEP to the University of Southern California's Wrigley
Institute, where it remained for three and a half years. At USC, the
Wrigley Institute and USC Sea Grant tripled the original funding from
the National Ocean Service. At this point in its evolution, NOEP
transitioned from an academic exercise into a dynamic web-based
platform. Assistance from USC computer science students and a former
colleague at MIT quickly brought the new site up to speed.
On the research faculty at Wrigley was Dr. Linwood
Pendleton, who had expertise in non-market economics. He was recruited
to launch the non-market economics section on the NOEP site, and he
refined and expanded it for the next five years.
From USC, Dr. Kildow took NOEP to the University of
Vermont Gund Institute. The National Ocean Service, then under the
direction of economist and lawyer Margaret Davidson, began a three-year
cooperative funding agreement to develop NOEP into a larger and more
robust program. The funding agreement followed Davidson to NOAA's
Coastal Services Center when she returned there as its director.
From the outset, NOEP has been an independent,
academic-based program to ensure that the public services provided to
users were apolitical and objective. This was the unwavering policy of
Davidson during the more than six years that she guided NOAA's portion
of NOEP's funding.
In 2003, Dr. Kildow accepted a distinguished
professorship at California State University, Monterey Bay, and took
the NOEP there with her. With support from the California State
University system, NOEP hired its first program manager, Bonnie
Lockwood, and first IT director, Pat Johnston, allowing NOEP to
expand to include coastal economy market data and offshore natural
resources production and values for fisheries and oil and gas. NOEP
also developed a non-market annotated bibliography and tracked
federal expenditures along the coasts and in the coastal oceans.
At CSUMB, NOEP created research opportunities for
dozens of students who produced senior and master's level theses based on
NOEP data. The data also became an increasing source of information for
various U.S. NGOs and government agencies as well as researchers around
While at CSUMB, Dr. Jason Scorse, a professor of
resource economics at the nearby Middlebury Institute of International
Studies at Monterey, replaced Dr. Pendleton, assuming responsibility for the
non-market aspects of the NOEP.
Three years after joining CSUMB, in 2006, Dr. Kildow
moved with the NOEP a few miles away to the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Research Institute (MBARI), in Moss Landing, where it ultimately became
fully funded by the Packard Foundation, with some support from the Moore
Foundation and the states of California and Florida. At this point it no
longer received NOAA funding.
Phase II: The international NOEP
At MBARI, NOEP produced its most important document to
date: a national report on the status and trends of the U.S. ocean and
coastal economies, with summaries for each coastal state. The effort was
welcomed and applauded by members of the U.S. Congress, many federal and
state agencies, as well as NGOs, corporations, and academics.
Dr. Kildow left MBARI in 2009, retiring once again,
and for two years the program transitioned while she negotiated to find a
new, permanent home for the NOEP. NOEP is now part of the Center for the
Blue Economy (CBE) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
The CBE is under the direction of Dr. Scorse, who from the outset
realized NOEP was an ideal focal point for his new center. The Monterey
Institute and its parent Middlebury College are raising funds to assure
an enduring future for the CBE and NOEP.
Over the course of its life, NOEP has received about
half of its funds from NOAA and the other half from universities,
foundations, and state governments. NOEP has also received nearly a
million dollars in funding from states for which the NOEP research staff
produced customized studies, most notably for California and Florida.
Dr. Kildow remains director of the NOEP, and Professor
Colgan remains the chief market economist. Monica Galligan is the new
program manager for the CBE. Galligan had worked with NOEP while it was at
CSUMB and retained a working relationship with Dr. Kildow. Pat Johnston,
who had been the NOEP IT manager at CSUMB and moved with the program to MBARI,
signed on with the CBE, assuring continuity of the databases and website.
Dr. Scorse has brought on board new master's candidates from the Monterey
Institute's Ocean and Coastal Resource Management concentration as
research assistants to help with the planned expansion of NOEP into a much
more research-focused and international platform. The Center for the Blue
Economy has formulated plans to launch an online Journal of Ocean and
Coastal Economics in 2013. Dr. Colgan will serve as the founding Editor
From its humble beginnings at MIT in 1999, NOEP has
become an essential part of contemporary ocean and coastal economics — a
pillar for examining and measuring the world's blue economy. From 1999
until 2010, NOEP researchers compiled all of the data. Since 2010, NOAA has
taken on the task of compiling the Ocean Economy data and shares them with
the NOEP. By 2012, the NOEP website was receiving nearly 100,000 visits
each year. The NOEP methodologies have become the standard for ocean and
coastal accounts in many nations.
Soon NOEP will become a truly international resource,
by incorporating data from around the world and helping to build
international capacity for ocean and coastal economic analysis. A new
section on ports and cargo was added in 2012 and there are plans to expand
into new areas of emerging offshore technologies and other policy relevant
data. This transition reflects the global outlook of the Monterey
Institute, and Dr. Scorse's Center for the Blue Economy.
NOEP's relevance has been demonstrated over the years
by the many requests for assistance that have come from the federal
government at key moments. Notably, NOEP responded to requests from U.S.
agencies and the Congress for the economic impacts of Hurricane Katrina,
and from many sources for the data to gauge the effects of the BP Oil
spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Requests are also received regularly from
academics, local citizens, and consulting companies. Regular users include
many environmental advocacy organizations, state agencies, and