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Do Your Part: Help Protect Our Estuaries

Simple things you can do to help protect and conserve our nation's fragile estuarine ecosystems.

an egret in a tidal pool

A great egret feeding in a marsh located along the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the U.S. and is one of the most productive bodies of water in the world.

Estuaries are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world and are home to many different plants and animals. Estuaries also support the U.S. economy in the form of seafood sales, jobs, and recreational activities such as fishing, bird watching, and boating.

Our National Estuarine Research Reserves are designed to protect these areas and the species that inhabit them. Research reserves are unique places that represent an important part of NOAA's place-based coastal management efforts. A total of 1.3 million acres of coastal wetland areas are managed and conserved through this partnership program with states and territories, but that's not all. Reserve staff work closely with local coastal communities to help make them healthier and more resilient, bringing needed coastal science to the decision- making table, and providing innovative, estuary-based educational opportunities to children and adults.

Do your part to help protect and conserve our nation's estuaries:

At Home

  • Keep septic systems working properly. Pump your system every three years. Leaking systems seep into estuaries and pollute them.
  • Think before you pour something down the drain. Many hazardous products flow from household drains through sewage treatment plants and into coastal bodies of water.
  • Pave Less. Hard surfaces speed up water runoff and increase pollution and erosion.

In Your Garden

  • Avoid using toxic pesticides. Try using natural lawn and garden treatments. Plain soap and water does the job and can keep harmful chemicals from ending up in nearby waterways.
  • Use native plants. Garden and landscape with plants native to your areas and reduce the need for watering and fertilizing.
  • Collect rainwater. Reducing runoff is critical to minimize the impact our yards and gardens have on surrounding lakes and streams.

On the Water

  • Adhere to "no-wake' zones when on your boat. Waves destroy shorelines and increase erosion.
  • Fish respectfully. Follow "catch and release" practices and keep more fish alive.
  • Respect habitat. Treat the homes of vital marine life with care. Healthy habitat and survival go hand in hand. When habitat disappears so do many plants and animals.

Anytime, Anywhere

  • Take action and get involved! Volunteer at your nearest National Estuarine Research Reserve. Organize a stream or beach cleanup. Encourage your local newspaper to write a story, or ask an expert to speak at your community organization or school.
  • Take a few minutes to learn more about estuaries and perhaps visit your nearest National Estuarine Research Reserve.
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Did you know?

Estuaries and their surrounding wetlands are bodies of water usually found where rivers meet the sea. Estuaries are home to unique plant and animal communities that have adapted to brackish water—a mixture of fresh water draining from the land and salty seawater. Many animals rely on estuaries for food, places to breed, and migration stopovers.

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