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Monitoring and Protecting Our Oceans and Coasts

Kathleen M. Hurld 1, J. Kevin Summers 2, Barry G. Burgan 1, Patricia A. Cunningham 3, and Kimberly L. Sparks 3

1 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), Ocean and Coastal Protection Division, Washington, D.C.
2 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), Gulf Ecology Division, Gulf Breeze, Florida
3 RTI International, Center for Environmental Analysis, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a multi-agency federal team participated in assessing the condition of the nation's coastal resources. The first National Coastal Condition Report attracted widespread attention within USEPA and other federal agencies and received praise from the Heinz Center, which intends to draw on this USEPA-led initiative for future updates to its State of the Nation's Ecosystems Report.

RTI International provided support for the development of the first National Coastal Condition Report published in 2001 and is currently preparing a second edition. This support included acquisition of monitoring data from numerous agencies, data analysis, and presentation of information for national and regional scales that summarized the data to present a broad baseline picture of the condition of coastal waters. RTI compiled data from USEPA's Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP), 305(b), 303(d), National Listing of Fish and Wildlife Advisories, and Beach Watch programs, and NOAA's National Shellfish Register.

The resulting ecological assessment of our estuaries using these mixed data sets shows that estuaries range from fair to poor condition. New environmental monitoring programs, both proposed and in place, will permit a comprehensive and consistent overall assessment of the nation's coastal resources by 2005. The overall condition of U.S. estuaries was assessed to be fair based on seven indicators of ecological condition - water clarity, dissolved oxygen, loss of coastal wetlands, eutrophic condition, sediment contamination, benthic condition, and accumulation of contaminants in fish tissue.

Keywords: TMDLs, National Shellfish Register, Beach Watch, National Fish and Wildlife advisories, coastal monitoring indicators, National Coastal Condition Report.

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