June 29, 2011

Thinking Coastal

Ramona Madosingh-Hector, Urban Environmental Sustainability, Pinellas County Extension

I am sure you’ve been asked the famous Monday morning question many times – what did you do this weekend? Maybe you went swimming, boating or fishing and if you did, you are ONE of the many millions of Florida residents who enjoy the coastal lifestyle.

In a nation with 35 states that border oceans, coasts or Great Lakes including the territories of the United States Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, the opportunities for coastal recreation are limitless. Coastal states border 95,531 miles of ocean and Great Lakes coastline and represent about 99 percent of the total United States coastline1 – that’s a lot of fishing line!

Although our easy, breezy coastal lifestyle is the envy of the nation, coastal residents are all too aware of the changes and impacts occurring within the coastal environment. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently created a website called the State of the Coast, which examines coastal communities, economies, ecosystems and climate. Across the nation -

• More than 50% of the nation’s population live in coastal counties

• Coastal counties represent 17% of the total land area excluding Alaska

• Coastal populations have risen and between 1970 – 2011, there was a 47% increase

• 13.6 million people are projected to move into coastal counties by 2020

• 69 million jobs existed in coastal counties in the United States in 2007

• $7.9 trillion contributed to GDP in 2007 from 673 coastal counties
Although coastal states are major economic drivers in the national and local economy, it is important to balance competing uses like residential development due to increased population and economic growth due to coastal tourism. An unbalanced approach places tremendous stress on the coastal ecosystem, increases user conflicts, and jeopardizes critical infrastructure.

As you plan your summer adventures to the coast, here are some tips to help you reduce your impact on our valuable coastal ecosystem.

• Properly dispose of fishing line, hooks, and nets.

• Be accountable for your personal trash by using recycling bins and trashcans at beach parks. Pack a waste-free picnic basket using reusable containers, paper products or bring plates and silverware from home. You’ll be less inclined to leave those items behind!

• Use designated public access walkways and dune walkovers to protect bird nesting areas, sea oats and sand dunes.

• Practice proper boat safety for yourself, your passengers and our coastal wildlife.
Make everyday a coastal clean-up day!

1Coastal Zone Management Program

Leave No Trace

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Ocean Conservancy

National Ocean Council

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