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Estuary Management Programs

An estuary is a transitional area along the coast where salt water from the ocean mixes with fresh water from the land and creates a unique and special place for marine species to live, feed, and reproduce. Estuaries are partially enclosed bodies of water and often have restrictions across the mouth, like a barrier beach or sand bar, which allows for tidal influence, but also offers protection from the full force of ocean waves and storms. Within an estuary there are many different marine habitat types including tidal wetlands, mudflats, rocky shores, oyster reefs, freshwater wetlands, sandy beaches, and eelgrass beds.

Estuaries are a critical part of the life cycle of many different species. They are the spawning and nursery areas for thousands of animals, such as fish and crabs, who seek the quieter waters of estuaries to provide a protected nursery for their offspring. Estuaries also provide a food-rich resting area for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds like black ducks, harlequin ducks, scoters, scaup, and red knot. Wading birds like the great blue heron, great egret, glossy ibis, and snowy egret nest in colonies on islands found in New York Harbor, Long Island Sound, and Gardiners Bay. Raptors like osprey and northern harriers also nest and feed throughout the marine district of New York.

New York's Marine and Coastal District has five estuaries which are managed cooperatively by DEC and other state, local, and federal government agencies, the scientific community, and direct input from private citizens. They include: