Gulf of Mexico LME

Introduction

The Gulf of Mexico Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) is characterized by its temperate climate. It borders the Atlantic Ocean, extending from the Straits of Florida to Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico is an ecosystem shared by Mexico in the south and the five Gulf States of the USA in the north: Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. It is a semi enclosed water basin that includes tropical ecosystems in Mexico, and off Florida where coral reef ecosystems and fauna of the Caribbean Sea dominate.

The northeastern U.S. Gulf supports largely temperate estuarine dependent ecosystems. About half of all wetlands in the United States occur in the northern Gulf. The northern Gulf is characterized by broad continental shelves east and west of the Mississippi River which extend to sea more than 120 miles. The Gulf of Mexico, the "Inland Sea" of America, is fed by the warm tropical waters of the Caribbean, which enter through the Yucatan Straits. This flow develops into the Loop Current and a number of associated eddies in the Gulf. Part of the waters entering the Gulf bends to the east, flows through the Straits of Florida and joins the Florida Current. Some of the water flows farther north into the Gulf and then veers to the east to form a clockwise gyre off West Florida. The remaining water turns west.

Fishery resources include highly migratory species of billfish, sharks, swordfish and Tunas along with multi species complexes, e.g. reef fish, weakfish, spotted sea trout, croaker, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, cobia, red drum, and black drum. An overwhelming proportion of the harvest in the southeast USA comes from the Gulf waters. The Gulf contains the second highest U.S. volume fishery, menhaden and one of the top five highest U.S. value fisheries, shrimp. Commercial landings of fish and shellfish in the Gulf have decreased over 25 percent since the early 1980s.