America’s Coastal Habitats Are Beautiful, Vital, and Worth Protecting

Increasingly vulnerable ecosystems sustain marine life, filter water, safeguard shorelines

America's Coastal Habitats Are Worth Protecting
CMLUS
Osprey, like this one near Long Island, New York, depend on still or slow-moving waters, including lakes, estuaries, and coastal wetlands, for the fish and other creatures they eat.
Vicki Jauron/Getty Images

Although coastal habitats make up only a little more than 3 percent of the United States’ marine territory (about 146,000 square miles), they have an outsized positive impact, encompassing highly productive areas essential to ocean life health.

These habitats, however, are under increasing threat: Pollution, poorly planned development, sea-level rise, and other factors have led to degradation. Examples include:

  • Kelp forests—home to more than 1,000 species—have been reduced to an all-time low along the U.S. west coast.
  • Oyster reefs—which improve water quality, provide habitat for marine life, and provide a popular food for people—have declined up to 90 percent since the late 1880s because of a combination of pollution, disease, and overharvesting.
  • Rocky habitats—which provide shelter and food for more than 1 million seabirds—are increasingly vulnerable to sea-level rise, coastal development, and other threats.
  • Salt marshes—which provide breeding areas and nurseries for fish, invertebrates, and shorebirds—have declined significantly in both size and number throughout the U.S.
  • Seagrass beds—which filter water, reduce erosion, and support marine habitat—are disappearing at a rate of two football fields an hour.

Pew works with national, state, and local officials, scientists, and others to secure formal protections and management plans that are vital to conserving these important areas.

Black and White Warbler
Black and White Warbler
Article

Connecticut Closer to a National Estuarine Research Reserve

Quick View
Article

After securing preliminary site approval for a National Estuarine Research Reserve last fall, Connecticut officials and partners have begun the extensive process of creating environmental documents that would govern how the site would be managed.

The Bio Bay
The Bio Bay
Article

10 joyas oceánicas y costeras que vale la pena proteger en la región oeste de Puerto Rico

Quick View
Article

Desde una montaña submarina hasta islas desiertas, la región oeste de Puerto Rico ostenta una enorme cantidad de vida silvestre y un hábitat mayormente intacto.

Getty
Getty
Article

5 Reasons to Modernize California's Marine Fisheries Management

Quick View
Article

Here are five reasons why people who care about commercial and recreational fishing, marine wildlife, and the communities that depend on a healthy Pacific Ocean should support—and participate in—the effort.

Boat at sunset
Boat at sunset
Article

Florida Suspends Apalachicola Oyster Fishing to Help Species Rebound

Quick View
Article

In communities around Florida’s Apalachicola Bay, oyster fishing is a tradition that goes back generations. In fact, oysters from the bay once accounted for about 90% of all those harvested in Florida and 10% in the United States.

OUR WORK

States of Innovation

Oysters
Oysters

Oyster Reefs Are at Historic Lows but Can Recover

Quick View

Oysters have been part of the human diet for millennia. In the United States, they were a “founding food,” providing a valuable source of protein for Native Americans and European settlers.