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Wetlands: Multi-Million Dollar Essential Fish Habitat

The U.S. is losing coastal wetlands at an alarming rate. You may not think this affects you—especially if you live in, say, the middle of America. But many of the fish and shellfish you enjoy are dependent on wetlands for food, protection, and reproduction.

Take the commercial shrimp fishery, which is one of the most economically important fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf shrimp can be brown, pink, or white.  All varieties brought in some $392 million and about 97 percent of the shrimp harvested in the United States from 2003-2012.

Now, about those wetlands: without Gulf of Mexico wetlands, the shrimp fishery would not exist! These wetlands are called essential fish habitat because they provide food and shelter for shrimp, and lots of other commercially important species. They are essential to their survival, harvest, and resulting economy.

The Gulf has also seen the largest wetland loss of any region in the country. Of the estimated wetland losses between 2004 and 2009, a whopping 71 percent were in the Gulf’s coastal watersheds. If these losses continue, we also lose valuable habitat—meaning those delicious shrimp, and the economy they support, might be lost too.

Posted June 23, 2015

A handful of shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico.