The finances of fishing: City leaders approve $25K for economic impact study of fishing fleet

Matt Algarin
Kent Benson of Kentucky pulled in this 32-pound king mackerel while angling for grouper aboard the JustinTime with Chip Godwin. The city of Destin has authorized a study to determine the economic impact of anglers like Benson, who flock to The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village to catch the big one.

City leaders have unanimously agreed to spend $24,900 with the hopes of raking in a lot more.

Recently, the city council authorized a study that would determine the economic impacts of the charter fishing fleet and recreational boating activities along the harbor, as well as an overview of the city's overall economy.

"We need this information when we are trying to fight for Destin," Mayor Sam Seevers told her colleagues on the dais.

The study, which will be conducted by the Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development at the University of West Florida, will be very similar to a study the city paid for in 2000.

Specifically, the study will give city leaders an overall view of the charter fleet and recreational boating activities' economic impact on Destin and Okaloosa County's economy; an overview of Destin's share of the county's retail and gas taxes, bed tax revenues, hotel and condo market, restaurant market, key economic drivers, and share of county employment by type; in addition to an assessment of money received by the city from various funding sources.

While he supported the basis of the study, Councilman Jim Bagby said the city shouldn't ignore the elephant in the room.

"If we are not going to measure the economic impact of the single biggest driver of our economy, what the heck are we going to measure,” he said of the tourism industry.  "If we are going to call out one thing, we ought to call out the biggest dog in this town."

Local developer Peter Bos agreed with the councilman's assessment.

"I would add both tourism and military just for clarification," Bos said, adding that Destin has "hooked the wagon" on a tourism-related economy, so it was only logical to measure its impact.

Also supportive of the study, Councilman Jim Wood said the key is to make sure the data that's being collected is "Destin" data.

"I want to make sure this is the city of Destin, not everything around Destin," Wood said, noting pockets of the city that are not inside the city limits.

With the funding approved, city leaders can expect to have an initial draft of the study completed within about 12 weeks. From that point the final project will be returned to the city within a week of all comments from the city.


Based on a study conducted by the University of West Florida’s Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development in 2000, the charter fishing fleet in Destin contributed about $175 million in direct spending into the local economy. The study also indicated that there were about 7,242 jobs in the area that are directly or indirectly supported by the fishing fleet at the time.


To find out what's biting each day of the Rodeo, check out the Rodeo Rap, sponsored by Aj's Seafood & Oyster Bar. Click here to see what's biting.