Economics of Estuaries

Economics of Estuaries

Estuaries, the transition zones where rivers meet the sea, provide the focal point around which coastal communities grow. The local bay or sound nurtures a high quality of life and maintains the health and traditions of our communities.

An estuary is also a tremendous economic resource which provides jobs to coastal communities. The U.S. coasts generate more than 28 million jobs.

These jobs come from commercial and recreational fishing, which alone employ 1.5 million people and contribute $111 billion to the nation’s economy. And it’s important to keep in mind that:

  • Estuaries produce more food per acre than the most productive mid-western farmland;
  • 75% of commercial species depend upon estuaries for their primary habitat, spawning grounds, and nursery areas; and
  • 86% of recreational fishing trips occurred within 10 miles of the shoreline;
  • Shore adjacent counties account for more than 43% of total United States GDP
  • Empoloyment for coastal tourism and recreation has increased annually by a rate of 3.83% in recent years
  • Estuaries do far more for our economy than supporting industries and providing jobs. Estuaries provide significant “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.

Additional Resources

Read the report Jobs & Dollars: Big returns from coastal habitat restoration.

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