News Release
Southeast Region


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New Report Shows U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fisheries Program Helps Support 68,000 Jobs in U.S. Economy

Fisheries’ recreation and conservation activities are huge economic drivers for nation

November 4, 2011


  • Adam Fetcher, (DOI) 202-208-6416
  • Valerie Fellows, (FWS) 703-358-2285
  • Tom MacKenzie (FWS-Southeast) 404-679-7291

Additional Resources:


EDITORS NOTE: Southeast Region actions highlighted at end of release, ATTN: AR, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN

A boy kneels next to water holding a large fish he caught as his dad looks on behind him, holding a fishing rod

Having fun fishing with dad. Photo: Carl Zitsman, USFWS. Download.

WASHINGTON -- The fisheries program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in association with state agencies and other conservation organizations, contributes $3.6 billion to the nation’s economy and supports 68,000 jobs across the country, according to a new report issued by the agency.

“The report confirms once again that fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreational activities are an economic engine for our country,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “When we invest in restoring fish and wildlife habitat and creating opportunities for people to enjoy outdoor recreation, we are investing in economic growth and jobs for the American people.”

Overall, hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation contribute an estimated $730 billion to the U.S. economy each year, Salazar noted. One in twenty U.S. jobs are in the recreation economy – more than there are doctors, lawyers, or teachers.

The report, Conserving America’s Fisheries, An Assessment of Economic Contributions from Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Conservation, shows that each dollar invested in the Service’s Fisheries Program, combined with its partners, generates about $28 in economic contributions and value.

The economic contributions generated are evidenced at sporting goods stores, marinas, guides and outfitter services, boat dealerships, bait shops, gas stations, cafes, hotels, and many other enterprises.

“Since 1871, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fisheries Program has been a leader in managing species, conserving habitat and sustaining the biological health of America’s aquatic resources,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “These resources are inextricably tied to the health and wealth of our nation. These benefits are ecological, scientific, aesthetic, recreational, commercial, subsistence, social, cultural – and economic in nature.”

The report – the first time that Service economists have analyzed the economic contributions of the nation’s fisheries programs – finds that a total of 68,000 American jobs are associated, directly or indirectly, with the fisheries conservation programs and projects.

The report also shows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Fish Hatchery System alone generates $900 million in industrial output and $550 million in retail sales. National Fish Hatchery programs generate 8,000 jobs and $256 million in salaries and wages.

Meanwhile, the National Fish Passage Program works with partners to reopen an average of 890 miles of river habitat annually, which has a economic value of $483 million and supports 11,000 jobs. That is more than $542,000 in economic benefit per stream mile restored.

The Service’s Fisheries Program plays a vital role in conserving America’s fisheries, along with key partners from states, tribes, federal agencies, other Service programs, and private interests.

The fisheries program consists of almost 800 employees nationwide, located in 65 Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices, 70 National Fish Hatcheries, 9 Fish Health Centers, 7 Fish Technology Centers and a Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives.

The program supports the only federal fish hatchery system, with extensive experience culturing more than 100 different aquatic species.

These employees and facilities provide a network that is unique in its broad on-the-ground geographic coverage, its array of technical and managerial capabilities, and its ability to work across political boundaries and embrace a national perspective.

For a copy of the report, or to see the summary of the report titled Net Worth: the Economic Value of Fisheries Conservation, please visit


Southeast Region-Specific Projects and Accomplishments

Florida - Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida; Restoring Fish Passage to Wetlands
Restoring passage to artificially impounded wetlands opened up approximately 444 acres of wetlands to the estuary on Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The project enhanced the restoration of aquatic habitat and the restoration/recovery of imperiled and depleted estuarine species.  The estuaries are used by a multitude of species, including fish, birds, and amphibians. The inability of these species to utilize historical estuary sites contributes to the overall decline of these species and hinders their ability to maintain adequate population size and structure. This project breached the man-made dikes that closed off the impoundment to the estuary.  Ten culverts were placed through breaches in the impoundment levees, allowing this water body to become part of the tidal estuary system, thus creating additional habitat for important aquatic species.  Access was restored to a large area of extremely high quality habitat that had been lost for over 50 years.  There are a host of species that utilize this habitat, including many depleted fish species, crustaceans, amphibians, and wading and diving birds that depend on these species as a food source.

Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee - Lower Mississippi River Fisheries Coordination Office, Mississippi; Restoring Fish Passage in the Lower Mississippi River
During the period 2006-2008 a Partnership was formed between the Service, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (Mississippi Valley Division, Memphis District, & Engineer Research and Development Center), and Wildlife Mississippi to begin implementation of the Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee's "Restoring America's Greatest River" plan.  Using a Decision Support Model developed by the Corps of Engineers, four fish passage projects were selected from a suite of 239 aquatic habitat restoration projects previously identified during a series of state-level planning meetings conducted in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee.  Sedimentation caused  rock dikes used to divert flow into the Mississippi River navigation channel had closed access to secondary channels, except during periods of very high flow.  The Partners shared fish passage funding, engineering technical expertise, and land management capabilities to construct 16 notches in 14 existing dikes.  These notches restored flow through more than 22 miles of degraded secondary channels during all but the lowest flow conditions.  Off-channel habitat was provided for the endangered pallid sturgeon and numerous species of recreational, commercial, and non-game fish species.  In addition, severing the land bridge likely increased nesting success of the endangered interior least tern and provided extensive areas of shorebird foraging habitat during the critical fall migration period.

Florida - Kelley Branch, Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Reserve, Florida; Dam and Culvert Removal to Restore Stream Habitat
Dam and culvert removal on Kelley Branch, Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Reserve, Florida restored access to over 2 miles of high-quality spawning and rearing habitat for rare endemic aquatic species of Florida's Pandhandle.  This was a joint project of the Service’s Wadmalaw Island Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office and The Nature Conservancy.  The dam removal facilitated the restoration of an additional 19 acres of previously inundated aquatic habitat.  The project provided Alabama shad, skipjack, Apalachee shiner, and other rare endemic aquatic species with access to over 2 miles of steephead ravine spawning and rearing habitat blocked for over 40 years by a small dam and a perched culvert.  Fish passage was accomplished by removing the 12-foot high dam, perched culvert, and the road fill associated with the culvert in the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve.  Removal of these structures also restored 19 acres of aquatic habitat inundated by the lake associated with the dam.

North Carolina - Neuse Basin, North Carolina; Removal of Crantock Mill Dam
The removal of the Crantock Mill Dam, Neuse Basin, North Carolina restored high-quality habitat for anadromous and riverine fishes.  This was a joint project of the Service’s Wadmalaw Island Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office and the Raleigh Ecological Service Office.  State partners include the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and the North Carolina Division of Water Resources.  The project restored access to 29.9 miles of extremely high-quality spawning and nursery habitat for American shad, hickory shad, river herring, and American eel, and other riverine species in Middle Creek of the Neuse River Basin. The project was accomplished by removal of the ten-foot-high Crantock Mill dam, a barrier that has blocked fish passage for approximately 40 years. The project also entailed removal of a semi-natural log jam that has developed immediately upstream of the mill dam. Economic benefits of the dam removal are increased commercial and recreational harvest of American shad, river herring, and striped bass.

Florida - Eglin Air Force Base, Florida; Okaloosa Darter Recovery Efforts
The Okaloosa darter is a federally endangered species that occurs in only six small watersheds that drain into the north side of Choctawhatchee Bay in northwest Florida.  Nearly the entire population of the endangered Okaloosa darter swims in water flowing through Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base.  One stream, Mill Creek, flows almost entirely on Elgin’s manicured golf course.  To restore habitat and remove barriers, the Service’s Panama City Fishery Resources Office redesigned Mill Creek, taking out six barriers and two ponds that kept darter from moving upstream.  The re-design included a 200 foot-long fish passage culvert underneath a fairway, replete with glass skylights to encourage fish to swim through.  The National Fish Passage Program and Partners for Fish and Wildlife dollars were matched almost 5:1 with Elgin Air Force Base and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 

Examples of Species Conservation and Management Accomplishments

North Carolina and East Coast - Atlantic Coast Watersheds; Striped Bass Restoration  
Striped bass have formed the basis of one of the most important fisheries on the Atlantic coast.  Striped bass populations have been threatened by habitat loss, blocked access to spawning grounds, and overfishing.  Both commercial and recreational fishermen alike have endured severe harvest restriction and closures.  Annual production and stocking of 200,000 striped bass by the Edenton National Fish Hatchery in the Roanoke, Tar/Pamlico, Neuse, and Cape Fear watersheds have helped increase population levels.  Spawning biomass of female Atlantic striped bass has been steadily rising, and a significant recreational fishery has grown over the last few years.  Commercial lands have also increased from near-zero in the early 1990s. 

Atlantic Coast Cooperative Striped Bass Tagging Program
Information was collected from over 1400 striped bass recaptured along the Atlantic Coast and tributaries.  Information was imported into the striped bass database about 8022 fish tagged and released in 2007 and 2148 fish tagged and released in 2008.  This program continues to assist in the restoration of striped bass fisheries along the Atlantic coast, providing increased opportunities for commercial fishermen and recreational anglers.

Tennessee - Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway (Columbus Lake), Mississippi; Paddlefish Restoration Effort
Paddlefish serve both an ecological and economic role throughout the historic ranges of the Southeastern United States.  Paddlefish are regarded as a key indicator species due to its low tolerance of sub optimal water conditions and its specific requirements for successful annual reproduction.  The species shares an equally important role in supporting recreational and commercial fisheries in areas where population levels support a harvest.  Columbus Lake is an area of the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway that still contains adequate spawning habitat, key nursery areas, and a forage base suitable for maintaining a self-sustaining population.  Working with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the Service’s Private John Allen National Fish Hatchery provides paddlefish fingerlings for this restoration effort.  All fish are tagged with binary coded wire tags prior to stocking.  Populations are assessed annually.  The outcome of this project will be an established, self-sustaining population of paddlefish in the Columbus lake portion of the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway. Once established, the paddlefish in this lake will be able to support a limited recreational and commercial fishery if managed appropriately.  Revenue generated through license, equipment sales and other associated expenditures by anglers will provide an economic boost to many of the small communities located adjacent to the river.

Examples of  Public Use Accomplishments

AR, FL, GA, KY, MI, NC, SC, TN, LA - Recreational use of hatchery-stocked fish generates significant economic effect in the Southeastern United States.  National Fish Hatcheries in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Louisiana annually stock a total of 22.3 million fish of 15 game species in 12 States.  In 2005, this generated over 3.2 million angler-days of fishing, $239 million in total economic output, and 3,100 jobs with incomes totaling $63 million, and $14 million in state and federal taxes.  This economic fuel was generated by spending less than $5 million in budget allocations to produce and stock these fish.  This translates to an economic benefit of $48 for every $1 of taxpayer money spent on NFH recreational fish production in the Southeast.

Examples of  Leadership in Science and Technology Accomplishments

Georgia - Cryopreservation Laboratory, Georgia; Preservation of Genetic Diversity
The Warm Springs Fish Technology Center’s Cryopreservation Laboratory assisted the Service in the development of cryopreservation techniques.  These techniques allow the preservation of genetic diversity from these species.  The conserved valuable genetic resources from candidate and endangered species reduced the need to create a cryopreservation laboratory in each Region – saving at least $200,000 annually in salary and operating expenses and at least $100,000 in facility expenses.  The Laboratory has collaborated with other Regions of the Service on Atlantic sturgeon and Atlantic salmon sperm cryopreservation research, and on pallid sturgeon and Alabama sturgeon sperm cryopreservation research.  This enabled the conservation of valuable genetic diversity from these species.

Georgia, New Mexico - Conservation Genetics; Fish Technology Centers
Geneticists at the Service’s Fish Technology Centers address questions related to population delineation, landscape genetics, population connectivity, and management and conservation of genetic diversity.  The Dexter National Hatchery and Technology Center, New Mexico, developed new genetic markers for gambusia and conducted the first genetic screening for several endemic gambusia species.  Dexter also developed genetic management and captive propagation plans for the endangered humpback chub and Clear Creek gambusia.  The Warm Springs Fish Technology Center, Georgia, determined that the alligator gar in the Mississippi River basin should be treated as several distinct populations.  Because of this data, alligator gar management plans were adjusted accordingly.  At Warm Springs, genetics work was directed at three imperiled freshwater mussels – the fat threeridge, purple bank climber, and oval pigtoe.  Genetics work will help prioritize mussel populations for conservation and risks associated with hatchery restoration, augmentation, and captive refuge programs.  The genetics lab in Alaska works on dozens of species – from salmon to sea otters.  Genetics research allows managers to integrate genetics into restoration and recovery efforts.


The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit Connect with our Facebook page at, follow our tweets at, watch our YouTube Channel at and download photos from our Flickr page at


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Last updated: November 4, 2011