Geography

  • The total area of the Gulf is about 600,000 square miles.
  • The greatest distance across the Gulf is approximately 1,000 miles going east to west.
  • The shortest distance across the Gulf is about 500 miles between the Mississippi Delta and the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula.
  • The United States and Mexico form the Gulf’s mainland shore, which extends more than 4,000 miles from the Florida Keys to Cabo Catoche, at the northwestern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico.
  • Like the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf is a semi-enclosed, partially land-locked, intercontinental, marginal sea.
  • At a depth of more than 12,000 feet, Sigsbee Deep is the deepest part of the gulf. It is more than 300 miles long and is sometimes called the “Grand Canyon under the sea.” Its closest point to the Texas coast is 200 miles southeast of Brownsville.
  • The Gulf’s geologic origin remains uncertain. Proposed theories speculate that it is: a foundered and ocean-flooded continental crust; an ocean basin that has been subjected to rifting; or an ancient sea that has existed since the various continents formed a single land mass.
  • The Gulf of Mexico links the ports of five southern U.S states (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas) and six Mexican states (Tamaulipas, Vera Cruz, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo) with the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
  • The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary contains the northernmost tropical coral reefs in the U.S.
  • 60% of the continental United States drains into the Gulf of Mexico, including outlets from 33 major river systems and 207 estuaries. Additional freshwater inputs originate in Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, and Cuba.
  • The Gulf’s coastal wetlands encompass over five million acres (about half of the U.S. total), serving as an essential habitat for 75 percent of migratory waterfowl traversing the United States, numerous fish and other wildlife species.

 

Population

  • The US Gulf coastal population rose 150% between 1960 and 2008. It is projected to rise nearly 40% from 1995 to 2025.

 

Environmental Concerns

  • Re-engineering the Mississippi River has unintentionally reduced the flow of land-building sediment to the Gulf coast by half and sends much of that past the wetlands to deep water. Diversion projects could reverse the decline of coastal wetlands by making use of what we have left.
  • It is estimated that 50 percent of the Gulf of Mexico’s inland and coastal wetlands have been lost and that up to 80% of the Gulf’s sea grasses have been lost in some areas.
  • The Gulf of Mexico is home to 24 endangered and threatened species and critical habitats.
  • Relative sea level rise along most of the Gulf coast has been substantially higher than the global average due to local land subsidence combined with the increasing volume of water in the sea.
  • Padre Island has been inundated by as much as one ton of debris per mile.