Water: Oceans, Coasts, Estuaries & Beaches
Summary of Findings: 2005 National Coastal Condition Report
Coastal Research and Monitoring Strategy (PDF, 1.1MB, 70 pages)
Summary of the Findings from the Executive Summary (2005)
This report is based on the large amount of monitoring data collected between 1997 and 2000 on the condition of the estuarine and Great Lakes resources of the United States. Ecological assessment of these data show that the nation’s estuaries are in fair condition, with poor conditions in the Northeast coast and Puerto Rico regions, poor to fair conditions in the Great Lakes, fair conditions in the Gulf coast, Great Lakes, and West coast, and good conditions in the Southeast coast. No overall assessments were completed of Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, or the U.S. Virgin Islands; however, surveys of Alaska and Hawaii have been completed, samples are being analyzed, and data will be presented in the next report. New ecological monitoring programs will permit a comprehensive and consistent assessment of all of the nation’s coastal resources by 2006. The major findings of the 1997–2000 study period are as follows:
Overall condition of the nation’s estuaries is fair. This rating is based on five indicators of ecological condition: water quality index (including dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll a, nitrogen, phosphorus, and water clarity), sediment quality index (including sediment toxicity, sediment contaminants, and sediment total organic carbon [TOC]), benthic index, coastal habitat index, and a fish tissue contaminants index.
Twenty-one percent of assessed resources are unimpaired (good condition), whereas 35% are impaired (poor condition) and 44% are threatened (fair condition) for aquatic life use or human use.
Twenty-two percent of estuarine waters are impaired for fishing, based on the risk-based noncancer guidelines for moderate consumption. Suitability of waters for fishing is measured using the fish tissue contaminants index in this report.
Twenty-eight percent of estuarine waters are impaired for aquatic life use. Suitability of waters for aquatic life use is measured using the water quality, sediment quality, benthic, and habitat loss indices in this report.
The indicators that show the poorest conditions throughout the United States are coastal habitat condition, sediment quality, and benthic condition. The indicators that generally show the best condition are the individual components of water quality— dissolved oxygen and dissolved inorganic nitrogen.