The 95,331 miles of ocean and Great Lakes coastlines are home to almost 153 million people, about 53 percent or the total U.S. population. Our nation’s coasts host a variety of industrial and business activities—fisheries, energy facilities, marine transportation, and recreation—that contribute tens of billions of dollars to the economy per year. Our ports handle about $700 billion in merchandise, the cruise industry generates $12 billion annually, and retail expenditure on recreational boating account for over $30 billion nationwide. Tourism and recreation continue to add value to the nation’s fastest growing business sectors, with some 180 million people visiting the coasts each year. But there’s more! Over 37 million people and 19 million homes were added to coastal areas over the last three decades. On average, about 3,600 people relocate to coastal areas each day, and by 2015 the coastal population is estimated to reach 165 million.
As the coastal population continues to increase, there are many competing demands for limited coastal areas and resources. Our coasts are facing increasing pressures from pollution, habitat degradation, over-fishing, invasive species, and coastal hazards, including hurricanes and sea-level rise. The increasing coastal population can also create conflicts between often competing coastal uses: beach goers, commercial and recreational boaters, residential, commercial, industrial and port development. The challenges ocean and coastal managers face of balancing coastal uses while protecting valuable coastal resources are mounting.
To address these challenges, the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management’s (OCRM) six divisions oversee a number of programs that assist states in managing, preserving, and developing their marine and coastal resources. OCRM activities include working with states and territories to conserve and protect coral reefs, operate a system of National Estuarine Research Reserves, and implement the National Coastal Zone Management Program, as well as developing a system of marine protected areas. The work OCRM performs is authorized by the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Marine Protected Areas Presidential Executive Order, the Coral Reef Conservation Act. The Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation codified under 16 USC §1456d.
NOAA's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) oversees six major programs within its six divisions. Each program has a national reach but is designed to account for local resources and needs.
The Coastal Management Program is a partnership between OCRM and 34 coastal and Great Lakes states, territories and commonwealths. The partnership works to preserve, protect, develop and, where possible, restore and enhance the nation's coastal zone resources.
The Coral Reef Conservation Program supports effective management and sound science to preserve, sustain and restore valuable coral reef ecosystems.
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) is a NOAA-state partnership that oversees 28 research reserves which have been established for the purpose of research, education and coastal stewardship.
The Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) protects coastal and estuarine lands considered important for their conservation, recreation, ecologic, historic or aesthetic values by providing funding to purchase significant coastal and estuarine lands, or conservation easements on these lands, from willing sellers.
The National Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Center uses science, technology and training to plan, manage, and evaluate the nation’s system of marine protected areas that include not only marine ecosystems, but also an array of cultural and historical artifacts found underneath the surface, including shipwrecks.
OCRM oversees the licensing of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion projects, a renewable energy technology that uses temperature gradients in the ocean water to generate electricity.
The Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program encourages coordination between state coastal zone managers and water quality experts to reduce polluted runoff in the coastal zone.