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More than half of the U.S. population lives in coastal counties - areas that encompass oceans and coasts, bays, estuaries and the Great Lakes - and the number will continue to grow according to a recent NOAA-U.S. Census study.

Coastal waters are rich in living and non-living marine resources that sustain prosperity and economic growth nationwide.  Coastal areas are hubs of commerce, home to many major American corporations, ports and transportation networks. Maritime commerce along and through our coastal ports of entry annually moves more than two billion tons of domestic and international freight. The fishing industry's 110,000 commercial and recreational vessels contribute $111 billion annually to the economy.  The coasts are used by millions of Americans annually for recreation.  They support a surging tourist trade that is the nation's largest employer with America's beaches being the leading tourist destination.

NOAA protects, preserves, manages, restores and enhances the nation's coastal resources and ecosystems along 95,439 miles of United States' shoreline. Through the Coastal Zone Management Program, NOAA works with state and territory coastal resource managers to share knowledge, promote research and pursue innovative management strategies and techniques.  The NOAA Coastal Services Center supports the environmental, social, and economic well being of the coast by linking people, information, and technology with the delivery of NOAA products and programs to coastal managers, non-profits and other federal, state and local agencies.

NOAA also maintains a network of marine protected areas including the National Estuarine Research Reserves and National Marine Sanctuaries and a national marine monument that protect habitats and provide venues for research, recreation and education.

NOAA's National Sea Grant College Program engages a network of the nation’s top universities in conducting scientific research, education, training, and extension projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of our coastal aquatic resources.

It is through these programs and others that NOAA is working to protect, restore and manage the use of coastal resources.