Gulf Coast fisheries are almost entirely dependent on estuarine wetlands. more than 75% of the commercial and 90% of the recreational harvest of fish and shellfish in the U.S. depend on coastal wetlands for food or habitat during some part of their life cycle.( EPA Watershed Academy Training Module: Wetlands Functions and Values).
Between 2004 and 2014, annual landings for the Atlantic and Gulf averaged $2,358,353,679 (NOAA Annual Commercial Landing Statistics). In 2013 alone, recreational fishing in coastal waters contributed $14,020,052 in sales, $5,282,159 in income, and added $8,277,649 in value to Gulf of Mexico regional GDP. Additionally, fishing trips and durable equipment expenditures generated $11.5 billion across the Gulf of Mexico region (NOAA’s Fisheries Economics of the United States, 2013: Gulf of Mexico Region Summary).
The contributions of wetlands to the coastal economy are therefore far from trivial. The loss of coastal wetlands due to climate change could have significant economic impacts on local and regional economies. These economic impacts will further ripple through the local economy in terms of jobs and services.
Additionally, wetlands generate income for local economies through nature tourism, bird watching, hunting, and outdoor and water sports. Wetlands buffer surrounding areas from flood damage, reducing flood peaks by as much as 60%. Tidal wetlands attenuate wave erosion along the coast and along river bends. By treating pollutant runoff, wetlands save tax dollars by reducing the need for water treatment plants.
For more information on the dollar value of wetland ecological services, visit our sister website, Wetlands Economic Benefits for Landowners.