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The Gulf of Mexico,also referred to by many as the “Mediterranean of the Americas”, is an ideal location for water sports such as fishing, skiing, boating and wildlife viewing. In 2001, more than three million marine recreational participants took more than 22.8 million trips and caught a total of 163 million fish. The numerous wetlands and islands dotted along the Gulf’s shores also provide a breeding ground for about 75% of the migratory waterfowl traversing the United States. In addition, the Gulf Coast also offers the longest man-made beach, 42 km long, along the Mississippi Coast.
It is estimated that the Gulf of Mexico supports a tourist industry worth over $20 billion annually. This growth in the tourism sector in the region has spurred the establishment of thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of jobs. Although this rapidly growing industry is good for the economy of the region, the larger infrastructure required by the industry is contributing to a gradual deterioration of the ecosystems of the Gulf. This has raised both public and private concerns. Environmentalists, scientists, governments and tourism operators alike are emphasizing “eco-travel” as a way to discover, explore and enjoy the natural world in a socially responsible manner, which promotes conservation, limits negative human impact and supports the local population.
Efforts to protect both the tourism industry and the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem have led to the designation of various bays, estuaries and wildlife destinations as either aquatic preserves, estuaries of national significance, national parks or wildlife refuges. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System in the United States has implemented a system-wide monitoring program to track short-term variability and long-term changes in estuarine waters to understand how human activities and natural events can change ecosystems. In the United States, Coastal America is conducting and sponsoring various research projects to protect, preserve and restore the region's coastal heritage while remaining sensitive to the economic importance of the tourist industry. The South Florida Information Access (SOFIA) program exemplifies projects at the local level designed to monitor, manage and restore various ecosystems to promote ecotourism.
Onegulf.org. Viewed on the web on March 2, 2004, at: http://www.onegulf.org/Value%20of%20the%20Gulf.pdf
ProjectAware.org. Viewed on the web on March 2, 2004, at: projectaware.org/
Planeta.com - Exporing the Gulf of Mexico
GOMSA - Gulf of Mexico Scenic Highway and the Wonders of the Gulf
National Wildlife Refuge Association
Keywords: Ecotourism, Pollution, Wildlife, Refuge, Bay, Estuary
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To cite GulfBase, use: F. Moretzsohn, J.A. Sánchez Chávez, and J.W. Tunnell, Jr., Editors. 2013. GulfBase: Resource Database for Gulf of Mexico Research. World Wide Web electronic publication. http://www.gulfbase.org, 23 May 2013.
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