Coastal habitats and estuaries—areas where freshwater from rivers and streams mixes with saltwater from oceans and bays—support tourism and recreation for visitors to the United States from around the world, provide shelter and feeding areas for wildlife, and sustain an estimated 75 percent and as much as 90 percent of U.S. commercial and recreational fish catch, respectively. And these habitats also filter pollutants and buffer inland areas from intensifying storms and increasing sea level rise, making them increasingly important to the almost 40 percent of U.S. residents—more than 123 million people—who live near a shoreline.
The Pew Charitable Trusts’ U.S. marine life conservation efforts span the nearshore to deep ocean waters and habitats off the nearly 55,000-mile coastline of the 48 contiguous states and Puerto Rico. A complex patchwork of federal laws, programs, and tools helps to protect these valuable and vulnerable coastlines and ocean. Pew works within that framework to:
- Expand the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, a federal-state partnership program under the Coastal Zone Management Act to conserve and sponsor research on sensitive coastal areas. The program includes 29 estuaries in 23 states and Puerto Rico, with the goal of expanding to include several additional important types of estuaries.
- Encourage the use of other elements of the act, including special area management plans, which foster federal-state collaboration to help states conserve key coastal locations, vulnerable habitat types, and broader regions.
- Ensure the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the primary law governing management of the nation’s ocean fisheries, remains strong and that recent progress to prevent overfishing and rebuild overfished populations continues. Pew supports efforts to strengthen the law by improving conservation of forage fish, the primary food source for larger fish, seabirds, and marine mammals.