Photo of commercial shrimp catch
Photo credit: Steve Delaney

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Economic Benefits of Wetland Resources

We use many natural products from wetlands, including mammals and birds, fish and shellfish, and timber. For example, wetlands supporting timber totals about 55 million acres, two-thirds of which occurs east of the Rocky Mountains. Similarly, various plants like blueberries, cranberries, mints, and wild rice, are produced in wetlands. We also derive medicines from wetland soils and plants.

Many of the nation's fishing and shellfishing industries harvest wetland-dependent species (e.g., striped bass and brown shrimp). In fact, the fish and shellfish that depend on wetlands for food or habitat constitute more than 75% of the commercial and 90% of the recreational harvest. In the Southeast, fish and shellfish species dependent upon coastal and estuarine wetlands comprise almost all of the commercial catch. The coastal marshes of Louisiana alone produce a commercial fish and shellfish harvest amounting to 1.2 billion pounds annually, which was worth $244 million in 1991. In this region, 96% of the commercial harvest and more than 50% of the recreational catch are estuary-coastal wetland-dependent fish and shellfish. The United States commercial fisheries harvest is worth more than $2 billion annually. This harvest is the basis for a $26.8 billion fishery processing and sales industry. Overall, including commercial and recreational endeavors, seafood is a $50 billion industry.

Wetlands are habitats for commercial fur-bearers like muskrat, beaver, otter, and mink, as well as reptiles such as alligators. The nation's harvest of muskrat pelts alone valued at over $70 million annually, while the alligator industry is valued at $16 million.

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Section 9 of 12