In honor of National Estuaries Week, we have information on how to care about the health of estuaries near you!
Twenty-two of the thirty-two largest cities in the world are located near estuaries, and with good reason. The ecosystem benefits of estuaries are massive, including major shipping channels, fisheries, agriculture, and tourism. The high productivity in these areas means that they are hugely beneficial to societies near them. In coastal Louisiana, many jobs and industries are directly dependent on a healthy estuarine system.
We in Louisiana are lucky to host one of the 28 National Estuary Programs supported by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Each National Estuary Program focuses on a different estuary, each one distinct and complicated, but they all share concerns about water quality and ecological integrity. Together the programs have restored or protected over 2 million acres across the nation since 2000. Our local NEP, the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP), seeks to maintain the breeding habitat of shrimp, blue crabs, and many fish species that have come to be a huge industry in the state. Other estuaries host different fisheries and different industries, for example the Puget Sound Partnership Comprehensive Plan includes support for salmon fisheries, resident orca populations, and goals for reducing shore armoring. BTNEP is based out of Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA, and they have a bounty of information on their website about their work, worries, and successes in maintaining one of the most productive ecosystems on the gulf coast. Anyone interested in protecting and restoring the estuary is welcome to participate in the BTNEP Management Conference which meets three times a year. People can also take part in beach clean ups, water quality monitoring, and local events to highlight recreational opportunities in the Barataria-Terrebonne area.
Many other programs and organizations are dedicated to the preservation of our estuaries, including RESTORE the Mississippi River Delta, America’s Wetland Foundation and CWPPRA’s Partners in Restoration. All of these programs understand the issues that threaten coastal Louisiana and the people who call it home.
Featured image from http://mississippiriverdelta.org/diversions-old-vegetation-and-new-vegetation/