Coastal Issues | Ocean Resources

Ocean and Great Lakes Resources


Coral Bay watershed in St. John, USVI.

The United States is an ocean nation. The ocean and Great Lakes area under U.S. jurisdiction is larger then the country's total land mass of 3.7 million square miles. Beneath this enormous area lies a wealth of natural resources: fish; marine mammals; coral reefs; oil; natural gas; mineral deposits; and deep-sea thermal vents. These ocean and Great Lakes resources are at the base of a vibrant economy. Ocean and Great Lakes activities are estimated to contribute over 100 billion dollars to our economy and support over two million jobs.

Our nation's oceans and Great Lakes are increasingly under stress as the result of human activities.

Human ingenuity and ever-improving technologies have enabled us to exploit-and significantly alter-the ocean's bounty to meet society's escalating needs. Pollution runs off the land, degrading coastal waters and harming marine life. Many fish populations are declining and some of our ocean's most majestic creatures have nearly disappeared. Along our coasts, habitats that are essential to fish and wildlife and provide valuable services to humanity continue to suffer significant losses. Non-native species are being introduced both intentionally and accidentally, into distant areas, often resulting in significant economic costs, risks to human health, and ecological consequences that we are only beginning to comprehend.

-- An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century, Final Report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, 2004

A photo of people

Stakeholders evaluating the effectiveness of marine protected areas (MPAs). MPAs are one tool that can be used to manage ocean resources.

We depend upon our oceans and Great Lakes for many activities including commercial and recreational fishing, aquaculture, navigation, commerce, and recreation and for resources such as oil, gas, minerals, and sand. At times, various uses and/or resource development activities may be incompatible and a balance must be found. To better manage the health of our ocean and Great Lakes resources and to alleviate conflicts, OCRM supports ocean and Great Lakes management initiatives including regional and statewide planning efforts, marine zoning and marine protected areas, coral reef conservation, habitat research, assessment and monitoring, and the development of mapping and information systems.

In Depth: Ocean and Great Lakes Resource Management.

For additional information, contact Carrie Hall.