Lake Erie Tourism Economic Impact in Ohio

Lake Erie is a natural resource that is a vital component of Ohio’s economy. The quality of life contributions that result from its recreational use cannot be measured in dollars; however, there are many statistics we can cite that point to the economic value of its waters.

Based on records from the Ohio Division of Wildlife, there were 694 Ohio-based licensed charter boat captains on Lake Erie in 2015. Private charter, head boat and personal watercraft fishing trips were estimated at 608,205 in 2015.

Trips booked by these charter captains, along with the harvest from private boats fishing Lake Erie’s Ohio waters, resulted in a harvest of 5.3 million pounds of walleye, yellow perch, steelhead trout, and other species. The commercial fishing harvest added another 4.5 million pounds. A total of 855,152 fishing licenses were sold in Ohio in 2015 and a large percentage of those anglers fished in Lake Erie’s waters.

The American Sport Fishing Association estimates that Lake Erie’s sport fishing expenditures top $1 billion annually. This extremely productive fishery provides significant economic impact to a wide variety of businesses, including not only the charter and commercial fishing captains, but also to bait and tackle shops, grocery stores, lodging facilities, fish cleaning businesses, restaurants, and many other business segments.

The same impact factors hold true for pleasure boating, as those who use Lake Erie for this activity spend money on a large variety of goods and services. Statistics from the Ohio Division of Watercraft show that Ohio had 474,601 registered watercrafts in 2015. This puts Ohio among the top 10 states in the country for boat registrations. These boaters paid $5.6 million in license and title fees and $14.8 million in marine fuel taxes.

Ohio Sea Grant data states that there are 270 licensed marinas on Ohio’s Lake Erie waters. Health Department records from the eight Ohio counties along the lake show that there are approximately 38,000 registered boat docks.

Data from a 2015 study of the economic impact of tourism in Ohio conducted by Oxford Economics, shows that for the eight Lake Erie-bordering counties in Ohio, total tourism-related spending was $14.1 billion and this spending helped support 123,880 jobs. This is 28% of the annual tourism-related spending for the entire state. This data is firm evidence of the economic value of Lake Erie, not only to those who work and reside along its shores, but to all Ohioans.

And because of the significant tax dollars that are generated through the spending that goes on either directly or indirectly because of this lake, there’s a case to make that all Ohioans benefit from a healthy Lake Erie. And we know that our friends in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ontario can all say the same thing about how Lake Erie benefits their areas.