EPA Delivers First National Estuary Condition Report
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its first National Estuary Program Coastal Condition Report, which ranks the condition of ecological resources in the 28 estuaries of EPA’s National Estuary Program (NEP). This report serves as a foundation for EPA’s efforts to protect, manage and restore coastal ecosystems.
“As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the National Estuary Program, we are seeing that nothing can compare to the value of partnerships in delivering lasting environmental results,” said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. “Under the leadership of President Bush, more than 1 million acres of coastal habitat have been restored and protected. Together with our vital partners, EPA is ensuring our coasts and wetlands remain beautiful, ecologically-sound treasures for generations of Americans.”
Overall, the NEPs are in fair condition and scored better than or equal to all other non-NEP U.S. estuaries despite significant population pressures. The information in the report is based upon EPA-sponsored monitoring data collected from 28 NEPs between 1999 and 2003 as well as monitoring data collected by the individual NEPs.
The data were collected as part of EPA’s National Coastal Assessment – the most comprehensive and nationally consistent data set available on estuarine conditions. The NEP estuaries were rated individually, regionally, and nationally using four primary indicators of estuarine condition: water quality, sediment quality, benthic (bottom) condition, and fish-tissue contaminant concentrations.
While population pressures in the NEPs were greater than those in the non-NEP estuaries from 1990-2000, the NEP estuaries showed the same estuarine conditions as, or better than, other coastal waters overall. By 2000, more than two-thirds of the coastal population lived in NEP counties, which comprise less than six percent of the coastal land area.
Twenty-eight of the nation’s estuaries are located in 18 coastal states and Puerto Rico. They have been designated as estuaries of national significance because of their unique economic, ecological, recreational and aesthetic values.
In the United States, estuaries provide habitat for more than 75 percent of America’s commercial fish catch. Estuarine-dependent fisheries are among the most valuable, with an estimated worth of more than $1.9 billion nationwide. Coastal recreation and tourism generate an additional $8 to $12 billion annually.
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