The Long Island Sound Study is asking residents of Long Island Sound to join in a nationwide "Toast the Coast" on Saturday, Sept. 28, in celebration of the 25th annual National Estuaries Day.

The LISS is part of a network of 28 national estuary programs working to improve and restore the nation's most important estuaries, the coastal areas where rivers meet the sea.

"A toast, even with just a glass of tap water, is a simple way for people all around the country to show their appreciation and support for our coastal waters," said Mark Tedesco, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Long Island Sound Office, which manages the LISS program. "For us, it signifies our appreciation of Long Island Sound, a body of water surrounded and enjoyed by millions of people that also supports an incredible array of fish, shellfish, seabirds, and other wildlife."

According to an economic study funded by the LISS, water-related activities in the Sound bring in nearly $9 billion a year. More than 20 million people live within 50 miles of the Sound's shoreline, and many of them fish, swim or simply enjoy the view from the Sound's many harbors, embayments and long coastline. Nationwide, approximately 110 million people, or more than half of all Americans, live near an estuary and enjoy the many benefits estuaries provide.

These benefits include jobs in industries like agriculture, commercial fishing, power generation, recreation and tourism, and shipping.

According to the nonprofit Restore America's Estuaries, coastal counties provide more than half the nation's gross domestic product and support more than 69 million jobs, or about 40 percent of U.S. employment. Besides the economic benefit, estuaries provide habitat for hundreds of species of fish, shellfish, shorebirds, waterfowl and other wildlife to breed, hunt, and raise their young. This, in turn, attracts tourists; as many as 180 million a year, according to a 1993 study. The salt marshes and wetlands used by these species also provide coastal residents with protection from hurricanes, nor'easters and other storms.

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