Co-authored by Jim Wyerman, Director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships, Mississippi River Delta Program, EDF

Part 1 of a 2-part series on the economic importance of coastal restoration to the state and nation.

Louisiana residents are increasingly aware that coastal land loss presents an immediate economic and existential threat to coastal communities and the state – but fewer are familiar with the risks to the national economy. Oil and gas, seafood, navigation, recreational fisheries and wildlife tourism all depend on a healthy Gulf ecosystem and contribute billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. See table below for a summary of key industries that would be put at risk if we do not restore the Louisiana coast.

Fisheries

Louisiana's commercial fishing landings are the largest in the continental United States, second only to Alaska. People from across the country enjoy eating Louisiana oysters, crabs, shrimp and fish. The success of this industry depends on coastal restoration to protect the Mississippi River Delta ecosystem.

  • More than one third of America's oysters are harvested from Louisiana waters.
  • Louisiana leads the nation in blue crab landings – 40 percent of the national total.
  • Louisiana commercial shrimp landings (all species combined/head-on weight) total 111.3 million pounds every year

But as the delta's wetlands disappear, so does its ability to support this abundant aquatic life. Restoration projects that reconnect the river with its wetlands to rebuild marsh and sustainable ecosystem will ultimately support a more abundant seafood harvest, which will in turn support local and state economies – and the nation – that enjoys eating Louisiana seafood. The Louisiana oil and gas extraction industry directly provides 76,000 jobs, more than half of which belong to people living in coastal parishes. Louisiana produces about 23 percent of the total U.S. crude oil production. Among U.S. states, Louisiana is a top ranked energy producer:

Oil and gas

Louisiana's seafood industry generates $1.92 billion in total sales annually and supports about 33,391 jobs. Recreational fishing adds another $1.96 billion in sales and supports nearly 17,000 jobs in the state. In addition to sustaining a large part of the economy, the Mississippi River Delta's fisheries also support a unique way of life for generations of Louisianans.

  • No. 1 in crude oil production
  • No. 2 in total energy production
  • No. 2 in natural gas production
  • No. 2 in refining capacity

Navigation and Petrochemical

Louisiana is home to more than 100 major petrochemical plants, providing the basic raw materials that are shipped around the country and world to create plastics, fertilizers and a vast array of other products. As Louisiana's coast erodes, the shipping industry is at risk because critical infrastructure becomes more vulnerable to extreme storms.Louisiana’s tourism industry is particularly vulnerable to the dangers of coastal land loss. Tourism generates 231,567 jobs and $16.8 billion in annual total spending, including wildlife tourism. Many business sectors directly or indirectly benefit from a healthy Mississippi River Delta.

Investing in Louisiana coastal restoration will protect billions of dollars in economic activity and critical infrastructure. Wetlands act as a buffer for water and wave energy, reducing flood risk and helping keep communities and businesses safe. By restoring and protecting coastal wetlands, we are protecting these vital industries and the jobs associated with them.

Tourism

Louisiana supports the U.S. economy by providing five of the nation’s 15 largest ports by shipping volume, and Louisiana’s navigation industry accounts for $11 billion in annual economic output. The Lower Mississippi River Deep-Draft Port Complex is the largest in the U.S., with over 250 miles of deep-draft shipping channels that offer waterborne access into 30 other states via over 12,000 miles of inland waterways. Southern Louisiana ports carry 20 percent of all U.S. waterborne commerce (500 million tons annually).

Restoring Louisiana's wetlands will help rebuild important natural infrastructure, providing storm protection for vital oil and gas infrastructure and lessening economic damages.  Read more.