About the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management

Columbia River, OR

Ports are an important part of our national economy. Columbia River, OR.

Managing Our Coasts

The 95,331 miles of ocean and Great Lakes coastlines are home to almost 153 million people, about 53 percent of 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.