Gulf of Mexico

Turquoise waves crash onto a white sand beach. Blue sky and white clouds in the background.
The Gulf of Mexico is the largest gulf in the world.

NPS Photo/Willis

Home to barrier islands, shipwrecks, historical forts, white sand beaches, wilderness, and thousands of species of plants and wildlife, the Gulf of Mexico is a true treasure. Its 600,000 square miles of sea make it the ninth-largest body of water in the world. Stretching over 3,700 miles of coastline, the Gulf of Mexico borders five US states and the countries of Cuba and Mexico. Taking in runoff from thirty-three major US rivers, the Gulf is one of the world’s largest watersheds. 

Formed over three hundred million years ago, the Gulf of Mexico basin consists of shallow waters brimming with life. Its over fifteen thousand species of fish make it one of the most popular recreational fishing destinations in the world. There are twenty-nine species of marine mammals that call the Gulf their home including dolphins, whales, and manatees. Five types of sea turtles, all endangered or threatened, navigate the waters of the Gulf. Many locations in the Gulf, like the barrier islands, serve as key stopping points for migratory birds.

The Gulf of Mexico faces many threats including pollution, oil spills, large scale storms, and over-fishing. These threats harm the wildlife, ecosystems, and citizens who depend on gulf waters for their livelihood. It is important that we do what we can to protect and preserve this natural wonder for the benefit of this and future generations.


Animals in this ecosystem


  • Jack E. Davis (2017). The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea. Liveright Publishing Corporation, New York, New York.

  • Proctor, N. S., & Lynch, P. J. (2012). A field guide to the southeast coast and Gulf of Mexico: Coastal habitats, seabirds, marine mammals, fish and other wildlife. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Last updated: April 21, 2020

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1801 Gulf Breeze Parkway
Gulf Breeze, FL 32563



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