With an ecosystem that encompasses barrier islands, seagrass beds, meandering waterways, and maritime forests, the Mississippi Coast celebrates a cultural heritage tied to its diverse lands and waters. Mississippi Sound is the centerpiece of the state’s 86‐mile‐long coast.
Key to maintaining the intricate ecological balance of the Sound are the coast’s barrier islands, which also help defend local communities against storms and hurricanes. Four of these islands and a portion of a fifth island are protected under the Gulf Islands National Seashore, while two are federally designated wilderness areas.
This complex system supports main sectors of the state’s economy, particularly the tourism, shipping, and seafood industries. Commercial and recreational fishing generate more than $700 million in sales annually and support more than 5,000 jobs. Nearly one in five jobs on the coast is tourism-related. Each year the Mississippi sites of the Gulf Islands National Seashore draw nearly 900,000 visitors, generating $32 million for the local economy and supporting more than 540 local jobs.
In total, Mississippi is certain to receive more than $1.3 billion dollars that can be used for restoration as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. More than a quarter of these funds have already been awarded or are in the process of being committed to projects that include improving water quality, restoring and protecting critical habitats, and benefiting birds, oysters, fish, and sea turtles. The remaining money will become available over the next decade and a half.