Coastal Ecosystem Health

The coastal ecosystems of the Northeast are rich and varied, providing a number of services to the coastal communities and industries such as commercial fisheries. These fisheries, together with associated activities, add $800 million each year to the region’s economy. Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) was identified by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy as the best practice to protect and safeguard the economic success of coastal ecosystems. This approach emphasizes the management of the whole ecosystem not just one species. Water quality is one aspect of ecosystem health that is particularly important in estuarine and nearshore waters. “Critical information for the management of coastal waters and their tributaries at regional and national scales”

Examples of successes that NERACOOS is working to enable include:

  • Protecting local ecosystems – By building regional partnerships to achieve economies of scale we seek to protect a range of ecosystems. We are helping state agencies develop nutrient criteria and determine Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) to protect local habitats. We work with regional ecological assessments such as the NorthEast Benthic Observatory (NEBO) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to identify and protect critical habitats.

  • Protecting Human lives – From April to August Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) can contaminate the region’s extensive shellfish resources with Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) toxins that, in extreme cases, can be fatal to humans. In 2005, an HAB outbreak caused estimated losses of $12 to $20 million dollars in the shellfish industry of Massachusetts alone. NERACOOS buoys inform regional HAB monitoring and modeling efforts and will provide real-time abundances of the HAB species Alexandrium fundyense to provide early warning and supply data necessary for predicting future HAB outbreaks.

  • Water Quality - Local water quality issues are important to NERACOOS and we are beginning to develop contributions to the National Water Quality Monitoring Network (NWQMN), a joint initiative of the EPA and USGS that was established on the recommendation of the 2004 U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.