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Key Facts

The Value of Healthy Habitats

  • Estuaries provide habitat for more than 68 percent of Americaís commercial fish catch by value and for 80 percent of the recreational fish catch by weight. Fisheries contribute more than $70 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • Nationwide, commercial and recreational fishing, boating, tourism, and other coastal industries provide more than 28 million jobs.
  • Together, coastal watershed counties contribute more than $4.5 trillion or one-half of the nationís GDP.
  • More than 180 million people visit beaches and other coastal habitats every year, and coastal recreation and tourism generate $8 billion to $12 billion annually.
  • U.S. coastal wetlands reduce the damaging effects of hurricanes and other storms on coastal communities, providing†more than $23 billion in annual storm protection services in areas most vulnerable to hurricane and tropical storm surges.

Threats and Pressures to Habitat

  • At current rates of coastal development, more than one-quarter of the nationís coastal lands will be altered by 2025.
  • An estimated 53 percent of the current U.S. population lives in coastal counties. This translates to more than half the nationís population living in 17 percent of the U.S. land area, excluding Alaska.
  • More than 60 percent of our coastal rivers and bays are moderately to severely degraded by nutrient runoff.
  • In the United States, a sea level rise of one foot could eliminate 17 to 43 percent of todayís wetlands.
  • More than 75,000 large dams and more than 2.5 million total barriers block migratory fish access to 600,000 miles of rivers and streams in the US.

Habitat Status and Trends

  • Since early colonization the United States has lost more than 50 percent (more than 110 million acres) of its wetlands.
  • Coastal wetlands continue to disappear at higher rates than inland areas. Between 1998 and 2004 the Great Lakes, Atlantic Ocean, and Gulf of Mexico have lost more than 59,000 acres of coastal wetlands annually.
  • The estimated annual monetary loss of coastal wetland services is $14.9 trillion.
  • Recent trends in seagrass habitat indicate a loss of more than 50 percent in Tampa Bay, 76 percent in the Mississippi Sound, and 90 percent in Galveston Bay.