National Estuaries Week, held every September, is a celebration aimed at increasing awareness of the country’s estuaries—such as the national estuarine research reserves—and encouraging people to become involved in the protection of these important natural resources. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a partnership between NOAA and coastal states, with a network of 29 spectacular sites designated to protect and study estuarine systems.
Below, get to know the reserves that are home to wonderful coral reef ecosystems.
He'eia is located in the southern portion of Kāne'ohe Bay — the largest sheltered body of water in the Hawai'ian Islands — on O’ahu. He’eia, the newest reserve in the system, was designated in 2017 and is managed by the University of Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology. The reserve protects nearly 1,400 acres that include features like coral reefs, sand flats, and the He'eia stream. The reserve also protects traditional agricultural and heritage lands.
Jobos Bay, on the southern coast of Puerto Rico, was designated in 1981 and is managed by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. The habitats in the nearly 2,900 acre reserve include coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangrove forests, and mud flats. Endangered species in Jobos Bay include the Hawksbill sea turtle, which feeds on sponges in coral reefs. Visitors can drop by the Jobos Bay Visitor Center, which has an exhibition room and a library.
The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program was established in 2000 by the Coral Reef Conservation Act. Headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, the program is part of NOAA's Office for Coastal Management.