upper left graphic upper right graphic

State Facts

Miles of Coast: 1,519

Coastal Population (2000): 4,924,916

Lead Coastal Management Agency: Executive Office of Environmental Affairs

Approval Date: 1978

lower left graphic lower right graphic

Ocean and Coastal Management in Massachusetts

Photo of West Falmouth Harbor.

The Massachusetts Coastal Program balances many coastal uses including public access, development, harbor planning, and natural resource preservation.

Massachusetts's Coastal Program

The Massachusetts Coastal Management Program consists of 20 enforceable program policies and nine management principles governing activities within the coastal zone. The Massachusetts coastal zone roughly includes all land within a half-mile of coastal waters and salt marshes as well as all islands.

The Office of Coastal Zone Management within the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs is the lead for coastal policy and technical assistance in the state. The Coastal Program works closely with a network of agencies to implement the program. Coastal Program staff also work closely with local governments and organizations to promote coastal management at the local level.

Massachusetts’s National Estuarine Research Reserve

Housed within the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses 2,600 acres of open waters, barrier beaches, marshlands, and uplands on the south shore of Cape Cod.  The Reserve was designated in 1988 and focuses on a variety of issues that are important to the region.  Some of the principal areas of research include nonpoint source pollution and polluted runoff. To address this and other issues, reserve scientists collaborate with many outside scientists from a variety of institutions, including the Marine Biological Laboratory and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Reserve staff bring the latest science-based information to coastal decision makers to ensure they are equipped to make educated coastal management decisions. The Reserve holds coastal decision-maker workshops for resource managers, municipal officials, citizen water quality monitors, and many other groups, such as landscape professionals and real estate agents, through the Coastal Training Program. Reserve staff also work with local schools through teacher training and consulting to implement curriculum on coastal topics.  

Program Achievements

Pleasant Bay Area of Critical Environmental Concern Management Plan

Massachusetts Promotes Improved Storm Water Management and Open Space


Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Program — The website provides information on the Program's policies and permitting and technical assistance activities.

Massachusetts Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Plan (2007) — Massachusetts has developed a Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Plan that provides an assessment of priority conservation needs and guidance for nominating and selecting land conservation projects to OCRM's Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program competition.

Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve — The Reserve’s website provides information on their many research, education, and stewardship activities.

Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology — This program brief describes investments in technology development and research projects for the state of Massachusetts.

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary — National Marine Sanctuaries conserve, protect, and enhance the biodiversity, ecological integrity and cultural legacy of important ocean and coastal areas.

Marine Protected Areas — Search for marine protected areas in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Coastal Nonpoint Program Conditional and Final Approval Documents — The Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program encourages better coordination between state coastal zone managers and water quality experts to reduce polluted runoff in the coastal zone. The state received full approval in 2001.

Massachusetts Coastal Program Evaluation (2007) — The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management conducts periodic performance reviews of federally approved state coastal management programs.

Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Evaluation (2007) — The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management conducts periodic performance reviews of estuarine research reserves.

Massachusetts Coastal Zone Enhancement Program Assessment and Strategy (2011-2016) — Every five years, the Coastal Zone Management Act encourages states and territories to conduct self-evaluations of their coastal management programs to assess significant changes in the state’s coastal resources and management practices, identify critical needs, and prioritize areas for enhancement under the Coastal Zone Enhancement Program.

Massachusetts Coast Guide — A guide to the nearly 400 public access sites along the Massachusetts coast from Boston Harbor to the North Shore.

Contact Information for Massachusetts’s Programs

Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management
251 Causeway Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114
(617) 626-1200

Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
P.O. Box 3092
Waquoit, MA 02536
(508) 457-0495