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National Aquatic Resource Surveys

National Coastal Condition Assessment 2010 Results

The NCCA 2010 is the fifth in a series of reports assessing the condition of U.S. coastal waters.

National Coastal Condition Assessment 2010 Results Slideshow

  •  Dry Tortugas Light located on Loggerhead Key, Florida The National Coastal Condition Assessment 2010: Learn about conditions in our coastal and Great Lakes nearshore waters in EPA’s NCCA 2010, one in a series of National Aquatic Resource Surveys designed to provide nationally-consistent and representative information on the condition of the nation’s waters.
  • NCCA crew performing coastal sampling Consistent Sampling Methods: The NCCA 2010 is based on sampling conducted at 1,104 coastal and Great Lakes nearshore sites during the summer of 2010.  EPA and its state, tribal, and federal partners used the same sampling methods at all sites so that results would be comparable nationwide.  
  • Docked NCCA sampling boat in Isle Royale, Michigan National and Regional results: The NCCA 2010 assesses coastal waters nationally and in five regions of the conterminous U.S.: the Northeast, Southeast, Gulf of Mexico, West, and Great Lakes. This report is the first to examine the nearshore waters of the Great Lakes in a probability-based survey.  
  • Crew members performing NCCA sediment sampling Biological and sediment findings: The report finds that 56% of U.S. coastal and Great Lakes nearshore waters are in good condition, supporting healthy populations of bottom-dwelling macroinvertebrates – creatures such as worms, clams, and crustaceans.  A similar proportion of waters have good sediment quality, based on levels of sediment contaminants and their toxicity effects.
  • Water quality results of the NCCA 2010 shown in a bar graph Water quality findings: Water quality is rated good in 36% of coastal waters, based on an index that examines levels of phosphorus, nitrogen, water clarity, chlorophyll a, and dissolved oxygen.  Of these, phosphorus is the most widespread. Excess phosphorus comes from sources such as sewage and fertilizer runoff, and can result in algal blooms, reduced water clarity, and low dissolved oxygen.
  • Thomas Point Shoal Light Station in the Chesapeake Bay Ecological fish tissue findings: Less than one percent of coastal waters are rated good for the ecological fish tissue quality index, which assesses the potential harm that contaminants in fish tissue pose to sensitive predator fish, birds, and wildlife.  Selenium is the most widespread contaminant exceeding the thresholds for predators. This finding is based on a new approach that is more protective than the approach used in the past. 
  • Bar chart depicting change in the national indices for water quality, sediment quality, and benthics Change in conditions: Between 2005/06 and 2010, coastal water quality remained unchanged, biological quality improved in 17% of waters and sediment quality declined in 22% of waters. These three indicators do not necessarily respond to stressors in the same manner. 
  • Sunrise over Lake Superior viewed from Isle Royale, Michigan Great Lakes fish tissue findings: The NCCA 2010 includes a highlight on the first human health-related study to provide statistically-based data on toxic chemicals in Great Lakes fish. All 157 fish fillet samples in the study contained detectable levels of contaminants, with PCBs and mercury most often exceeding human health screening values. All Great Lakes currently have fish consumption advisories.
  • Crew member processing NCCA 2010 water samples in a lab setting Conclusion: EPA and its state and federal partners are moving the science of coastal monitoring forward with continued focus on improving the indicators that are at the core of the NCCA. The findings of the NCCA 2010 support the need for continued attention to coastal stressors at the national, state, and watershed scales.