Between 75 and 89 percent of all marine fishery resources are dependent for their survival (as spawning, nursery, feeding and/or migration corridors) on "inshore" habitats such as estuaries, bays, tributary rivers and their adjacent wetlands.
To biologists, "habitat" literally means wherever fish and shellfish are found.  For U.S. living marine resources, this includes all marine and freshwater areas from the edge of the Outer Continental Shelf or the 200 nautical mile edge of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), through the coastal zone, and inland throughout the drainage basins supporting such resources.  Important "inshore" habitats for living marine resources include seagrass meadows, salt marshes, mangrove forests, coral and marl reefs, kelp beds, tidal inlets, unvegetated coastal and bay bottoms, tidal flats, river and stream channels, forested headwater streams, freshwater marshes, oxbow lakes, bottomland hardwood swamps, beaches, and larger bodies of water such as sounds, lagoons, bays, and estuaries - collectively "inshore ecosystems." 
"Inshore-dependent" species are those considered to be dependent upon inshore ecosystems for essential reproduction (as spawning or nursery areas), migration, or feeding.  Moreover, without such critical inshore habitats, these species would not exist in the abundance they are (or were) found.  The living resources of inshore waters are predominantly juveniles - often the young of species hatched offshore and carried by currents to coastal waters or downstream migrants from headwater spawning sites.  For example, inshore-dependent resources include: (a) salmon, which spawn far inland and mature at sea; (b) shrimp, whose larvae are carried by currents from offshore spawning areas to estuarine nursery areas; (c) bluefish, which spawn offshore and use estuaries and coastal waters to feed; (d) oysters, which survive best in the lower salinity zones of estuaries; and (e) red snapper, which are characteristic reef fish. 
By region, inshore-dependency of the 1991 commercial landings (the latest year for which such information has been developed) of fish and shellfish by weight (and in parentheses, by value) has been estimated to be:  New England, 39% (21%);  Middle Atlantic, 41% (36%);  Chesapeake Bay, 97% (71%);  South Atlantic, 90% (77%);  Gulf of Mexico, 95% (87%);  Alaska, 76% (76%);  Pacific Northwest, 52% (70%);  California, 24% (40%);  and the Pacific Islands, 8% (11%).
Inshore-Dependent Species Contribute $46.5 Billion Annually to the U.S. Economy in Economic Output Derived from Commercial and Recreational Fishing.
In 1991, U.S. commercial fisheries landed 4.270 million metric tons (mt) of fish and shellfish having a dockside value of $3.9 billion (NMFS 1992a).  Inshore-dependent species comprised at least 75% (3.215 million mt) of the U.S. total by weight and 63% by value ($1.752 billion).  Moreover, 8 of the top 10 commercial species groups (NMFS 1992a) are predominantly inshore-dependent (6 of 10 if measured by value).  In 1991, U.S. commercial landings generated total economic activity (i.e., direct, indirect, and induced) estimated to be more than $50 billion (NMFS 1992b).
Since inshore-dependent species make up 63% of the total U.S. commercial  fishery landings by value, they would presumably account for approximately $31.5 billion of this economic output.  However, the living marine resources that have been affected most by habitat degradation and loss are those dependent upon inshore ecosystems of the "lower 48" states, whose landings constituted 45% of the total by weight (1.9 million mt) and 61% by value ($1.7 billion).  Inshore-dependent species of fish and shellfish represent at least 75% of the lower 48 states' landings by weight (1.4 million mt) and 57% by value ($964 million) and, according to the above relationship, they would account for about $12.4 billion in annual economic output.
Inshore waters are also essential for sustaining what is thought to be an even larger but as yet undetermined proportion of the catch of marine recreational anglers.  As an indication, 86-89% of the catch of Atlantic and Gulf coast anglers and 81% of Pacific coast anglers are taken in inshore waters and those within 3 miles of land (USDC 1992a, USDC 1992b).  Moreover, of the top 10 species groups caught by marine anglers of the lower 48 states (NMFS 1992a), 100% are composed predominantly of species dependent upon inshore habitats for their survival.  It is estimated that the nation's 17 million marine recreational anglers (NMFS 1992a) spent $5 billion on trips and equipment in 1991 (USDI-USDC 1993), and generate annual economic activity (direct, indirect, and induced) estimated at $15 billion (Fedler and Nickum 1994).
Populations of Inshore-Dependent Species are
the Lowest Ever Recorded
Populations of most inshore-dependent fish species of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf of Mexico coasts that have been the target of both commercial and recreational fisheries appear to be at or near their historic low levels of abundance.  These include:  Atlantic salmon, bluefish, striped bass, weakfish, spotted seatrout, summer flounder, winter flounder, black sea bass, American shad, hickory shad, (Gulf of Mexico) king mackerel, spanish mackerel, cero, amberjack, pompano, red drum, black drum, cobia, snook, most familiar reef fish species (particularly snappers and groupers), many species of coastal sharks, California halibut, California corbina, English sole, and many wild races of chinook salmon, coho salmon, sockeye salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, and steelhead.  Many populations of inshore-dependent shellfish (e.g., hard clams, softshell clams, razor clams, Pismo clams, bay scallops, abalone, spiny lobster, Atlantic oyster, Dungeness crab), which are also dependent upon suitable habitat and water quality, have been similarly depressed.  Of ecological concern as well, the Atlantic menhaden and Pacific sardine populations, primary components of marine food chains, are near their lowest recorded level.  Overall between 1978 and 1991, commercial landings of inshore-dependent fish and shellfish from the lower 48 states have declined by 18% in weight (310,379 mt) and by 32% in annual value ($450 million in constant 1987 dollars).
Encouragingly, within the last several years, some inshore-dependent species (particularly striped bass) in regions such as Chesapeake Bay may be starting to recover.  Presumably, this is occurring as a result of the combined effects of harvest restrictions, habitat protection, pollution abatement, construction of sewage treatment plants, improved land use management, agricultural improvements, and by related efforts by all involved Federal, state, and citizen action.  However, in many other areas, particularly the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific coast of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California, inshore-dependent fishery populations are declining dangerously.  A large portion of the recent population loss in the Gulf of Mexico can be attributed to mortality of juvenile finfish as "bycatch" in shrimp trawls, which kill an estimated 9 pounds of young fish for every 1 pound of shrimp harvested and have contributed to an 85% decline in "bottomfish" biomass in the north central Gulf of Mexico between 1973 and 1990 (CEQ 1992).  NMFS estimates that this annual kill (of mostly young) includes 500 million spot, 1 billion seatrout, and 7.5 billion croaker (as well as large numbers of red drum and red snapper) or a total of 175,000 tons of juvenile commercial and game fish per year throughout the 1980s (NMFS 1992b).  The red snapper spawning stock in the Gulf of Mexico has been reduced to about 1% of an unfished population.  Along the Pacific coast, losses of anadromous fish populations are due primarily to dams and the degradation of spawning streams in watersheds subjected to extensive clearcutting and associated road building on steep, unstable slopes.  However, massive ecosystem alteration and continuing habitat degradation, if allowed to continue, will limit recovery for the preponderance of the nation's marine species.  This will affect the economies and social characteristics of coastal regions, recreational pleasure for millions, and continued production of the nation's highest quality food source.

Habitat Protection Division

Dams and Flow Diversions

Toxic Contaminants

Nutrient Over-Enrichment

Cumulative Effects

Swordfish, Billfish, Tunas and Sharks

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