While the nation as a whole gained freshwater wetlands from 1998 to 2004, a new report by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service documents a continuing loss of coastal wetlands in the eastern United States.

The new report, Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Eastern United States, shows a loss of 59,000 acres each year in the coastal watersheds of the Great Lakes, Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico from 1998 to 2004.

“This report shows the nation’s need to expand the effort to conserve and rebuild valuable coastal wetlands,” said Jim Balsiger, acting NOAA assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “Coastal wetlands are nurseries for important commercial and recreational fish and are vital to many threatened and endangered species. They also provide natural protection to coastal communities from the most damaging effects of hurricanes and storm surges.”

Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Eastern United States, 1998 to 2004 is available online at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/habitat. The next national five-year study on wetlands will include the Pacific coast as well as the eastern United States.