Free Interactive Report
The Oceans and Marine Life in the US
UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, Life Below Water, aims to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas, and marine resources by 2030. Maintaining healthy oceans and seas is vital to human well-being. Not only do these ecosystems support food supply chains and economies around the world, they are also one of the biggest resources we have to slow global warming and reduce the impacts of climate change.
Plastic trash makes up 80% of marine debris and is now found in most marine and terrestrial habitats, including the deep sea, Great Lakes, coral reefs, beaches, rivers, and estuaries. By 2050, ocean plastic will outweigh all of the ocean’s fish.
The US is extremely dependent on healthy oceans, seas, and coasts. Almost 40% of the US population (130 million people) live in coastal communities, and over 3 million jobs (1 in 45) directly depend on the resources from the oceans and Great Lakes. The future of commercial and recreational fisheries, coastal tourism, and the livelihoods and homes of people living on the coast depend on how we address the challenges facing these ecosystems, particularly climate change, overfishing, and plastic pollution.
Use the tool below to view indicators nationally or by state, as well as an overview of the more than 8,800 nonprofits organizations that work on addressing related issues in the US. You can also discover 110 products and services in our Tech for Good Directory related to coral reefs, plastic pollution, sustainable fisheries, ocean acidification and other key areas of ocean health.
lives on the coast
Areas (MPAs) have
caught & discarded
at sea annually*
are caught & discarded at
Interactive Report Notes:
*These values represent the value of domestic fishery landings—fish and shellfish that are landed and sold in the 50 states by U.S. fishermen and do not include landings made in U.S. territories or by foreign fishermen.
**Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) include marine reserves, fully protected marine areas, no-take zones, marine sanctuaries, ocean sanctuaries, marine parks, and locally managed marine areas. Each area has a specific level of protection and a specific allowed range of activities. This report does not include MPAs in US territories.
- Commercial Fishing Value: NOAA Fisheries Database 2020
- Coastal Population: GC Insights analysis of NOAA’s State Of The Coast: National Coastal Population Report, Population Trends from 1970 to 2020 and U.S Census 2020.
- Discarded Fish: GC Insights analysis of NOAA Fisheries Database 2020 and OCEANA Wasted Catch Report.
- Marine Protected Areas: MPA Inventory, NOAA and the U.S. Department of the Interior 2020.
- Plastic Waste Generation and Management: GC Insights analysis of EPA Plastic Waste Management 2018 and Law et al 2020.
- Nonprofit-related data: GC Insights analysis of over 600,000 forms 990 filed with the Internal Revenue Service -IRS 2018-2020
- UN Sustainable Development Goals – SDG 14
- NOAA Fisheries – Sustainable Fisheries
- NOAA Coastal Management – Economics and Demographics
- US Department of Interior – Marine Debris
- IUCN – Marine Plastic
- Fourth National Climate Assessment – Oceans and Marine Resources
- NOAA – Fisheries Economics of the United States
- NOAA – Ocean Pollution
- Center for American Progress – 30% of US Oceans
- NOAA – Marine Protected Areas
- EPA – Trash Free Waters
- Scientific American – Ocean Acidification
- NRDC – Status of US Fisheries
- NOAA – Status of Stocks 2020
- NOAA – Garbage Patches
- Conservation International – Ocean Pollution Facts
- World Economic Forum – 90% of Fish Stocks are Used Up