Ocean and Coastal
Understand, protect, restore,
and sustainably use ocean and coastal habitats.
Ocean and coastal habitats
are very diverse, ranging from coastal streams and sandy beaches
to seagrass beds and kelp forests, and from coral reefs and arctic
ice shelves to open ocean waters and deep ocean canyons. The
nation's ocean and coastal habitats support some of the most
valuable and diverse biological resources on the planet, including
66% of all U.S. commercial and recreational fish and shellfish,
45% of all protected species, 50% of nongame migratory birds,
30% of migratory waterfowl, and thousands of other species. These
habitats also provide important services, including flood control,
water filtration and storage, storm protection, food production,
and recreation and tourism. While it is clear that human activities
have degraded or destroyed many ocean and coastal habitats, in
some cases, the scope and magnitude of these impacts are largely
unknown, and we do not fully understand the complex processes
related to ocean and coastal habitats.
Recent scientific examination
of the effects of bottom trawling on the seafloor shows evidence
of large-scale habitat alteration, particularly within less resilient
seafloor communities. Other activities, such as dredging, although
necessary to maintain our nation's waterways, can also harm valuable
riparian and estuarine habitats and raise ancillary problems
associated with contaminated dredge material and its disposal.
Human activities, such as residential and commercial development,
can alter or destroy valuable coastal wetlands, which are critical
habitat for many species of fish, shellfish, birds, and other
- There is limited understanding
of the causes of recently observed changes in ocean chemistry
and their potential impacts on ocean and coastal habitats.
- The nation's ocean and coastal
habitats have never been comprehensively mapped or described.
- No coordinated monitoring
program exists to track the health and condition of ocean and
coastal habitats and integrate federal, state, and local data.
- There is no comprehensive,
long-term planning and tracking of permits and use of ocean and
coastal habitats, including impacts on essential fish habitat.
- Ocean and coastal habitats
have tremendous social and economic values that are not captured
in any assessment.
- Technical and financial resources
are not available to adequately restore most damaged habitats
or respond to emergency situations.
- Contaminated sediment, dredging,
and the disposal of dredged material pose a threat to ocean and
- Implement a coordinated, comprehensive
effort to map and monitor the condition of U.S. ocean and coastal
habitats, such as the Aquatic Restoration and Conservation Partnership.
- Produce an annual report card
on the health of the nation's ocean and coastal habitats.
- Fully implement the essential
fish habitat requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation
and Management Act.
- Work with other federal, tribal,
state, and local agencies to encourage the use of existing wetland
restoration programs to effect on-the-ground change in coastal
- Implement coordinated, comprehensive
efforts to reduce the impacts of dredging and fishing on coastal
- Develop cost-effective, environmentally
acceptable regional sediment management procedures that speed
remediation of contaminated sediments and increase beneficial
reuse of both clean and remediated dredged material.
- Assemble and disseminate information
on the social and economic values of ocean and coastal habitats.
- Develop and implement new
technologies to respond to threats and restore damaged coastal
- Support community-based partnerships
to identify, design, and implement coastal habitat restoration
- Increase research to understand
the ongoing changes in ocean chemistry.
For more information
The port of Oakland has until
recently been unable to dredge its channels because it could
not find an environmentally acceptable site to dispose of the
dredged material. An innovative wetlands restoration project
in the Sonoma Baylands helped find a creative solution by hydraulically
pumping clean dredged material onto former marshland that had
subsided. Oakland is now more competitive in the deep-draft Pacific
container trade, and the future marshland is prime habitat for
intertidal plants and animals.