The Georgia Bight
The pulsing heart of our coastal ecosystem is the tide. Our dramatic high and low tides are a result of coastal Georgia’s unique location as the furthest western coastline on the Atlantic Coast—in the center of the curvature known as the Georgia Bight. As a result, high tide waters are pushed by the shape of the coastline from North Carolina and Florida, forcing water to gather on top of itself and creating six to ten foot tidal changes along our coast. Our coast has the third highest tidal fluctuations on the Eastern Seaboard, behind Canada’s Bay of Fundy and Maine!
Our Coast Drives our Economy and Quality of Life
Coastal Georgia’s most prominent natural feature is the nearly 400,000 acres of marshland between its mainland and string of barrier islands. In total, our salt marsh, sounds, and mud flats provide a nursery for nearly 70% of the species that are fished off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. This dynamic system sustains commercial and recreational fishing that contribute approximately $400 million a year to our state’s economy.
Our coast creates recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike. In 2012 alone, nearly 15 million people visited our coast, contributing more than $2 billion a year through the tourism industry. Large majorities pointed to our natural resources —and unique ways to connect with these resources—as primary reasons for their trip.
An Uncertain Future
Compared to neighboring states like South Carolina and Florida, Georgia’s coastal landscape remains largely undeveloped and pristine. But these natural assets bring complex challenges. Our region faces higher tides and storm surge, and flooding and erosion are increasing in critical areas. Additionally, rapid growth, combined with inadequate planning and unbalanced development strategies, threaten our coast as never before.