Economics of Estuaries

Economics of Estuaries


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Since Restore America’s Estuaries Published The Economic and Market Value of Coasts and Estuaries: What’s At Stake? in 2008 a lot has changed; providing grounds for optimism, concern, and a clear call to action. 

The updated 2021 Report demonstrates there is some good news. We can mitigate the dire impacts of climate change by protecting and restoring our coasts. We also recognize the increased value natural-infrastructure has for coastal communities and the global economy. While estuaries only make up 4% of America’s total landmass, they are home to 40% of the U.S. population and produce 47% of the country’s GDP

As we think about what we want to be as a society we should ask: what are fishing communities without fish? What are marshes without marsh grass? What is a beach holiday without sand and birds? Will we want to continue to live, work, and play along our coasts if we are constantly threatened by floods and storms? Now is the time to harness our collective spirit and ensure change happens and we protect who, what, and where we love.

We hope you enjoy this report and we look forward to working alongside you to see these necessary changes come to fruition.


Daniel Hayden
President & CEO
Restore America’s Estuaries

Quick Facts

  • From 2009-18, employment and GDP grew faster in estuary regions than in the U.S. as a whole, while housing and population rates grew at a similar pace
  • Estuaries regions produce 47% of the U.S. GDP and are home to 40% of the U.S. population
  • Estuaries produce more food per acre than the most productive mid-western farmland
  • Estuaries provide habitat for more 2/3 of U.S. commercial fish harvest 
  • Recreation accounts for more than 70% of the employment in coastal communities 
  • Coastal tourism generates an economic value of about $531 billion
  • Estuaries do far more for our economy than supporting industries and providing jobs. Estuaries provide significant “ecosystem services” which directly benefit Americans. For example, estuaries protect landowners from flood waters and provide important buffers that protect water quality by filtering runoff.

Beyond these measurable benefits, estuaries are at the heart of so many of our coastal communities. Without healthy estuaries, ways of life that have defined our communities for generations would disappear. The value of restoring and strengthening our estuaries can, in the end, really only be measured by the value each of us place on the quality of life we pass on to our future generations.