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COAST (Coastal Ocean Assessments, Status, and Trends)


"To provide integrated environmental monitoring, assessment and research to describe the status & trends of our Nation’s marine, coastal and Great Lakes environments."

What’s New?

September 2011

NOAA to Collect Baseline Environmental Data in Alaska's Chukchi Sea
NOAA's National Status and Trends (NS&T) BioEffects Program and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) are conducting a baseline environmental assessment along a 150 mile length of the nearshore area of the Chukchi Sea. This body of water is in a sub-region of the Arctic being actively sought for leasing and has a high likelihood for oil and gas development activities in the near future. The 2-week research cruise, led by Alaska's DEC in partnership with NOAA, began September 4th, in Barrow, AK and ended at Wainwright, AK September 18. The survey area extended from Pt. Barrow to Pt. Lay. It includes assessment of benthic communities, demersal fish, sediment chemistry, and water quality assessment within the nearshore area of the Alaska coast. This area is not currently being assessed by BOEMRE under the current lease sale area #193, which is offshore from the study area. This study (results available within 1 year) will supplement existing information in generating baseline data to help define the intricate interplay of oil exploration, climate change, ocean acidification and pollution on the ecosystem of the Chukchi Sea.

Autumn 2010

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative – NOAA Mussel Watch Program Expands into EPA Designated “Areas of Concern.”
NOAA’s National Status and Trends Mussel Watch Program, and the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, completed the second phase of mussel and sediment collections from Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, and St. Clair, and the Detroit, St. Clair and St Mary’s Rivers in September. Two teams and two boats traveled a combined distance of nearly 5,000 miles over 14 days to collect the samples from over 40 sites. New sites were established in 18 Areas of Concern (AOCs) that were designated by the Environmental Protection Agency in known pollution “hot spots.” The EPA was aware of the Mussel Watch sampling being done in the region and leveraged both agencies resources by funding the additional sampling from the teams already on site.  Samples will be analyzed for chemical contamination, toxicity and benthic taxonomy, and results will be used to assess pre and post remediation conditions. Funding for this effort is provided through EPA Region 5. For more information visit the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative web site and NOAA’s Enhanced Mussel Watch site effort or contact Ed Johnson, (301-713-3028).

Summer 2010

Collaborative sampling effort for characterization of contamination and disease in fish and shellfish species used for subsistence food by native Alaskan communities completed
Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment (CCMA) researchers recently completed the field sampling component of a seafood health and contaminant characterization in Kachemak Bay, Alaska to evaluate contamination levels and associated biological effects. The study will assess contaminant body burdens and the health and condition of shellfish and salmon in Kachemak Bay Alaska. This effort will provide reliable chemistry and histopathology data and information for local resource managers and Native Alaskans regarding shellfish use and management needs. The project included partners from NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Fishery Science Center, the Chugach Regional Resources Commission, the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, and local Native villages and fishing co-ops. For more information, contact Dennis Apeti or Ian Hartwell at (301) 713-3028.

December 2009

Groundbreaking Mussel Watch Pilot in California Receives National Media Attention
Scientists from the Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment (CCMA) and collaborators from the state of California are, for the first time, analyzing mussels collected from 80 sites state-wide for "emerging contaminants of concern." Foremost among these contaminants are a group of chemicals known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs. Used as a flame retardants in a wide variety of products, they have been found all around the U.S. coast, and in rivers and lakes as well. A recent report by CCMA presented the extent of PBDE contamination across the U.S. (Click here for a ink to the report). The researchers are also analyzing for, amongst others, pharmaceuticals and anti-bacterial agents used in hand sanitizers. They will be analyzing not only for the extent of contamination but reporting on areas of the country where the highest levels have been found. The researchers hope to use the information gained from these analyses to determine which of these contaminants needs to be further studied to determine contaminant levels in higher living creatures and other effects. The Mussel Watch Program has, since 1986, been sampling mussels and oysters from locations along the U.S. coast for a variety of metals, pesticides, and other organic contaminants. The Associated Press profiled this pilot project in an article on December 29, 2009. It was subsequently picked up by dozens of media outlets nationwide, including the New York Times, the Huffington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and ABC news. For more information, contact Greg Piniak at (301) 713-3028 x115 or .

Partner Homepages:

California State Water Resources Control Board

San Francisco Estuary Institute

Southern California Coastal Watershed Project

October 2009

Bioeffects Assessment Quantifies Extent of Sediment Contamination, Toxicity, and Natural Stressors in Kachemak Bay
The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science have released a report that provides chemical contaminant, toxicity, and benthic organism information useful for management planning efforts and understanding the ecosystem of Kachemak Bay, Alaska. Although the main portion of Kachemak Bay was relatively uncontaminated, elevated contaminant levels were found locally in Homer Harbor and Port Graham. The elevated levels found in Port Graham are an important find as residents use the surrounding ecosystem as a source of subsistence foods. Also, glacial meltwater is a major stressor to the system which has implications relative to global warming. Partners included the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council, North Pacific Research Board, and Native Alaskan organizations. The report, “Sediment Quality Triad Assessment in Kachemak Bay: Characterization of Soft Bottom Benthic Habitats and Contaminant Bioeffects Assessment”, can be found online at: For more information, contact Ian Hartwell at (301) 713-3028 x137 or .

August 2009

Experimental Harmful Algal Bloom Forecast May Reduce Impacts to Residents
A recent series of experimental harmful algal bloom forecasts alerted resource managers in the Great Lakes to a Microcystis spp. (also referred to as “blue-green algae”)bloom in the region, allowing them to take preemptive measures to reduce impacts. Since July 30, 2009, the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), in collaboration with the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, have released a weekly forecast for western Lake Erie to local health officials, water treatment managers, natural resource managers, and several research scientists in the area. As a result, increased filtration of drinking water in the area may be undertaken to lessen taste and odor issues associated with previous blooms, and waterfront recreational areas may have warnings posted. Microcystis spp. often forms dense blooms that can discolor the water, cause taste and odor issues in drinking water, and can negatively affect humans and animals through their potential to produce hepatotoxins (liver-damaging toxins). For more information, contact Michelle Tomlinson at (301) 713-3028 x225 or .

June 2009

Study Evaluates Agricultural Best Management Practices in Jobos Bay, Puerto Rico
Scientists from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) recently completed a field mission designed to help determine the impacts of agricultural pollution on corals near the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Working in collaboration with the Reserve and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, scientists sampled 16 sites for coral tissues, which will be analyzed for a suite of contaminants including major and trace elements (including heavy metals), selected pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (better known as PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs or flame retardants). This field work is a component of a larger cooperative project with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey and Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural and Environmental Resources to assess the effectiveness of agricultural best management practices in the watershed.  For more information, contact Dave Whitall at (301) 713-3028 x138 or , or Adam Zitello at (301) 713-3028 x 176 or , or visit

January 2009

National Report Provides Insight for Management of U.S. Coastal Ocean Waters
Scientists from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) contributed heavily to the National Coastal Condition Report (NCCR) III, an interagency report authored by NOAA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey. The NCCR, released in December 2008, characterizes the condition of U.S. coastal waters based on indices for water quality, sediment quality, coastal habitat, benthos, and fish tissue contaminants. Overall, the conditions were “Fair,” and have improved slightly since the first NCCR was published in 2001. NCCOS also contributed an integrated assessment of the human uses of Narragansett Bay (Chapter 9 of the report). For more information, see, or contact Dave Whitall at (301) 713-3028 x138 or .

December 2008

NOS Offices Reward Scientist for Laudatory Collaboration Efforts
Shelly Tomlinson from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science received the 2008 NOS Peer Recognition “Rafting” Award. She was singled out for her work with IOOS and other offices working together on NOS’s Harmful Algal Bloom Forecast System (HAB-FS), a highly collaborative cross-cutting program effort. The purpose of the system is to provide an advanced warning of HAB events to coastal managers and the public. As lead analyst for the western Gulf of Mexico HAB-FS system, Shelly uses software developed by CSC explicitly for the HAB-FS to analyze data and model output to provide now- and forecasts to coastal managers responsible for both public and ecosystem health. She was also praised for contributing to IOOS’s data integration framework, and contributing to the addition of currents data into that framework, among other things. Shelly received her award at the NOS Employee Recognition Ceremony in Silver Spring on December 9, 2008. For more information, contact Shelly Tomlinson at (301) 713-3028 x225 or .

November 2008

Meeting connects Maryland water quality experts and Asian partners to minimize water quality problems in Asia
A scientist from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science was an invited guest at the October 23 meeting of the Maryland–Asia Environmental Partnership meeting ( “A Public-Private dialogue: Galvanizing Maryland Resources to meet water management and technology needs in Asia.” The conference focused on connecting expertise from Maryland-based university research labs, state, national, and multilateral government agencies, and the business supply chain, to build partnerships to do business in Asia. The intent of these connections is to try to reverse or lessen the dire predictions by United Nations experts that Asian developing countries will soon face a water quality management crisis unprecedented in human history. The meeting provided unique Maryland perspectives on applicable lessons-learned in water management, new technologies and financial resources, and sustainability efforts which could be mobilized to help address Asia’s water management and technology needs. ( For more information, contact Suzanne Bricker at (301) 713-3020 x139 or .

October 2008

CCMA’s Mussel Watch Program at Risk after Completing 23rd Year of Monitoring the Nation’s Coasts
Scientists from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science’s Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment completed the 23rd year of sampling of U.S. coasts with this year’s completion of sampling zebra mussels in the Great Lakes this September. National sampling was made possible because of the collaboration of such groups as the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the Southern California Coastal Water Resources Project, the State of California Water Resources Control Board, and the U.S. Coast Guard. Data from the Mussel Watch Program were recently made available to NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration to help define contaminant concentrations in Texas and Louisiana prior to the landfall of Hurricanes Ike and Gustav. The budget outlook for this Program is not good, and Mussel Watch will be terminated in mid-2009. Mussel Watch data represent a nationally relevant time series of ambient contaminant conditions. It is the national “gold standard” for determining baseline conditions so that the effects of oil spills and natural and manmade disasters can be assessed. Once a time series of this breadth and duration is terminated it will likely never be replicated, and the nation will have lost a critical capability to assess the status and trends of contamination of our estuarine and coastal waters. For more information, contact Gunnar Lauenstein at (301) 713-3028 x152 or or John Christensen at (301) 713-3028 x137 or .

Meeting Analyzes Models to Help Irish Aquaculture Farmers Maximize Profitability and Minimize Water Quality Damage
A scientist from the Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment participated in the final meeting of the UISCE (Gaelic for fish, Understanding Irish Shellfish Culture Environments) project that combines models of hydrology, shellfish growth, and the Assessment of Estuarine Trophic Status (ASSETS) eutrophication model to look at sustainability and maximization of yields and profitability for aquaculture in Irish Seas, while minimizing water quality impacts. The work is supported by the BIM (Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Irish Sea Fisheries Board;; and was conducted by a team that includes European and American partners. The meeting was held in Westport, Co. Mayo, on September 24-25, 2008. The report will be available in December 2008, and peer reviewed publications as well as online-accessible tools for aquaculture farmers will be available in the near future. For more information, contact Suzanne Bricker at (301) 713-3020 x139 or .

NCCOS Represented on Interagency Testing Committee
A National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science researcher is currently serving as Vice-Chair of EPA’s Interagency Testing (ITC) Committee. The ITC includes 16 federal member agencies and was established under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to identify chemicals regulated by TSCA for which there are suspicions of toxicity or exposure and little, if any, data on ecological effects, environmental fate, or health effects testing. The ITC adds the chemicals identified to the Priority Testing List and recommends them to the Administrator of EPA for testing or information reporting. The availability of fate and effects data for chemicals is critical to assessing possible environmental impacts. For additional information, contact Tony Pait at (301) 713-3028 or . (CCMA)


Example Products

For more information on NOAA's COAST Branch or products, contact Greg Piniak at or 301-713-3028, ext. 115.