About the reserves

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) is a national network of 29 sites dedicated to the effective science-based management of coastal and estuarine environments. Established by the Coastal Zone Management Act in 1972, reserves are partnerships between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a U.S. state or protectorate. NOAA provides funding and national guidance and the state partners provide a place and vision for the reserve’s work and administer programs in support of reserve goals. Together, the reserve system encompasses more than 1.3 million acres of coastal and estuarine habitats nationwide.

Reserve sites act as community centers where scientists and decision makers connect to solve problems, teachers and students learn about coastal science, and citizens explore and enjoy the natural beauty of estuaries and coasts. Like the estuaries they support, reserves function through an extensive web of relationships that extend throughout surrounding towns, cities, states, and regions. Reserve staff work with diverse partners to improve water quality, sustain fisheries, restore and manage natural lands, adapt to climate change, and enhance public understanding of environmental issues. Ideas, knowledge, and tools from each reserve are shared through the system’s powerful network to address national needs and challenges.
Learn more about how reserves work, what their staff, partners, and volunteers work for, how you can help protect estuaries and coasts, and the system’s partnership with NOAA. You can also review the strategic plan for the reserve system.
Reserve data is the backbone of our monitoring strategy. We use it for regulatory and management decisions; it has been key to our efforts to make massive nitrogen reductions in Great Bay.
Ted Diers,
The Rookery Bay reserve has changed a lot of lives. These kids who come here are exposed to things they have never seen before. When they see these things and work with the people here, it changes their perspective on everything they do. This is a gift. We live in a phenomenal place. And not enough people know about it.
Mark McGarrity
Lely High School
As a billion dollar economic engine for our coastal communities with landings exceeding 125 million pounds, Maine’s lobster industry depends on a healthy Gulf of Maine, beginning with our estuaries. The Maine Lobstermen’s Association strongly supports the work of the reserves.
Patrice McCarron
Maine Lobstermen’s Association