NOAA 2000-096
Contact: Connie Barclay


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency released the first comprehensive strategy for research and monitoring in the nation's coastal waters today.

The nation's coastline stretches 95,000 miles along oceans, estuaries and the Great Lakes. The Coastal Research and Monitoring Strategy represents the first effort to integrate coastal monitoring and research activities on a national scale to provide thorough, cross-cutting assessments of the health of the nation's coastal resources.

"Because coastal resources are so vital to our economy and our environment, it is very important to know more about them and what condition they are in so we will know how to protect them better," said NOAA Administrator D. James Baker.

"Millions of Americans visit the nation's coasts each year," added Chuck Fox, EPA assistant administrator for water. "Polluted beaches can threaten public health and lead to lost revenues for businesses. This strategy shows that we must all work together to restore and protect our coastal treasures."

The strategy recommends: (1) enhancing and adapting existing monitoring programs to support an integrated national program; (2) integrating interagency research efforts to fill data gaps; (3) conducting periodic national and regional coastal assessments; (4) improving data management; (5) establishing mechanisms to assess and adjust monitoring and research with changing national coastal priorities; and (6) developing an implementation plan for further action.

In terms of surface area, the coastal waters of the United States represent the largest economic and environmental zone of the nation. Because a disproportionate percentage of the nation's population lives in coastal areas, the activities of municipalities, commerce, industry, and tourism have created environmental pressures that threaten the very resources that make the coast desirable.

To address these pressures, the Clinton administration has called for a renewed effort to restore and protect the nation's estuarine and coastal areas. The Clean Water Action Plan, announced by President Clinton and Vice President Gore on Feb. 19, 1998, is intended to redirect the nation's water programs to "protect public health and restore our nation's waterways."

The Clean Water Action Plan specifically called for the development of a strategy for coastal research and a plan for coastal monitoring, including a comprehensive review of existing programs related to the generation, transport, and effect of pollutants on coastal waters, habitats, and living and economic resources. The Coastal Research and Monitoring Strategy addresses both of these recommendations, which are intrinsically linked for the purposes of assessing regional and national trends, determining cause and effect relationships, and implementing adaptive management principles.

While the national investments, made as a result of environmental legislation, have had a dramatic affect on improving the nation's coastal water quality, there are still environmental problems in the coastal zone. Examples of environmental issues common to most coastal states include runoff pollution (also called nonpoint source pollution), nutrient enrichment, habitat change, declines in living aquatic resources, invasive species, pathogens, toxic contaminants, and harmful algal blooms.

Despite the importance of the coastal region to the nation's economy, and the high potential for human use to adversely impact coastal resources and ecosystems, critical information about the status and trends of key environmental variables in coastal regions is often lacking. Other than programs for coastal weather, water levels, commercial fisheries, and point source discharges, there are currently no nationally consistent, comprehensive monitoring programs to provide the information necessary for effective management of coastal systems.

The Coastal Research and Monitoring Strategy is a product of the Coastal Research and Monitoring Strategy Workgroup, which was formed in 1999 with representatives from federal agencies, tribes, state and local agencies, and non-governmental organizations. The workgroup is co-chaired by NOAA, USGS, USDA, and EPA.

The Coastal Research and Monitoring Strategy can be found on the Clean Water Action Plan Web site, at