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GEO-3: GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK  
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Coastal and marine areas: North America

Annual fish catch (million tonnes): North America

North American fisheries have been in severe decline since the late 1980s, with at least one-third of all species overfished

Note: fish catch includes marine and freshwater catches but excludes crustaceans and molluscs, and aquaculture production

Source: compiled from Fishstat 2001

Almost 25 per cent of Canada's and about 55 per cent of the United States' populations live in coastal areas (CEQ 1997, EC 1999). The US coastal population is growing at four times the national average, with some of the highest levels of urban growth taking place in small coastal cities (CEC 2000a). This is of concern because coastal ecosystems are among the richest storehouses of marine biodiversity and provide important ecosystem goods and services. Conversion of these fragile systems to urban uses can lead to physical degradation, exploitation of marine resources and pollution.

Issues of particular concern for the region are the excessive input of nitrogen from land-based activities and the precipitous decline in fisheries (see graph): 21 of the 43 ground-fish stocks in Canada's North Atlantic are in decline and nearly one-third of US federally managed fisheries are overfished (CEC 2000a).