BOX 1.1
Economic Value of the Coastal Zone

  • The movement of waterborne cargo contributes more than $742 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product and creates employment for more than 13 million individuals (USDOT, 1999).

  • Commercial and recreational fishing contributes more than $111 billion to the economy annually (USDOT, 1999).

  • Rapid population growth and the resulting increase in coastal development during the past 50 years have resulted in greatly increased natural hazard risk to 160 million Americans and more than $3 trillion in coastal property (Heinz Center, 2002).

  • A 1992 study calculated that the coastal zone in California alone provided an annual economic contribution of $17.3 billion and 370,000 jobs (CSC, 2001).

  • In 1996, Americans spent $18.1 billion on activities related to wildlife observation in the coastal zone (USDOT, 1999).

  • In 1997, about 78 million Americans participated in recreational boating, using about 16 million boats and spending $19 billion on boats and boating activities (USDOT, 1999).

  • The economic impact of cruise lines is estimated at $11.6 billion per year (USDOT, 1999).

infrastructure is located near or on the ocean (Hinrichsen, 1999). More than 95 percent of overseas trade between the United States and other nations moves by ship, including 9 million barrels of oil per day and over 98 percent, by weight, of all non-North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) goods imported into the country. As gateways to our nation and the focal point of commerce, our ports and harbors are critical and vulnerable components of the nation’s infrastructure and homeland security.

Beyond its formal, spatially delimited definition, the coastal zone is inextricably linked to a complex web of environments extending from the upper parts of watersheds out to the open ocean. Variations in watershed outflows influence the types and concentrations of dissolved and suspended materials in coastal waters. Physical, chemical, and biological processes control the distribution of nutrients, the transport of sediment, and the water circulation in coastal waters. Human activities have often resulted in increased sediment and pollution loads to coastal waters, decreased water quality, alteration of physical environments, loss or change of habitat (both onshore and offshore), depletion of fish stocks

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