10th annual ecosystem report card shows moderate improvements in key areas

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Brunswick, Ga.

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BRUNSWICK, Ga. (April 19, 2024) -- The Coastal Resources Division (CRD) of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources today released the 10th annual Coastal Georgia Ecosystem Report Card. 

This comprehensive assessment evaluates the health of Coastal Georgia’s ecosystems, examining water quality, fisheries, and wildlife through twelve key indicators.

Overall, Coastal Georgia received a commendable grade of B, signifying a moderately good score of 78 percent. This assessment reflects the collaborative efforts of biologists and technicians across DNR to protect and sustain the region’s invaluable coastal resources.

Among the notable findings of the report, the highest scoring indicators were red drum, spotted seatrout, and sea turtle nesting, all achieving perfect scores of 100 percent. These positive results underscore the effectiveness of ongoing conservation initiatives in safeguarding critical species and habitats within Coastal Georgia.

The fisheries index scored 80 percent for 2023, indicating significant progress in the management and sustainability of fish populations. However, it’s worth noting that two fisheries indicators, shrimp and blue crabs, were influenced by the temporary unavailability of the Ecological Monitoring Trawl Survey aboard CRD’s Research Vessel Reid W. Harris during the last quarter of 2023. Data from these metrics was not used to calculate the final overall score.

Water quality remains a highlight of Coastal Georgia’s ecosystem health, with the water quality index scoring an impressive 89 percent in 2023, earning an A grade. This positive assessment reflects safe swimming conditions, as well as suitable environments for local shellfish and aquatic species. Notable components such as fecal coliform (98 percent), enterococcus (85 percent), and dissolved oxygen (84 percent) all achieved satisfactory scores.

Indicators Table

The sea turtle index scored 75 percent in 2023, reflecting moderate decline in sea turtle metrics used to calculate the score. While sea turtle nesting maintained a perfect score for the 10th consecutive year, sea turtle hatching faced challenges with a score of 49 percent, primarily attributed to predation. Continued efforts in sea turtle management aim to bolster populations and ensure the long-term viability of these iconic species.

In contrast, the bird index scored a 48 percent, indicating room for improvement in avian conservation efforts. While bald eagles showed moderate improvement, challenges such as mammalian depredation impacted the nesting success of American oystercatchers.

“Environmental report cards are powerful tools used around the world to highlight long-term survey data, increase public awareness of coastal resource statuses, and influence members of the public to act to improve the health of the coast through public support and restoration projects,” said Jan Mackinnon, manager of CRD’s Coastal and Ocean Management Program, which produced the Report Card.

The release of the 10th annual Coastal Georgia Ecosystem Report Card underscores the importance of collaborative conservation efforts in conserving Coastal Georgia’s rich biodiversity and heritage. By leveraging scientific data and community engagement, stakeholders can work together to address the challenges and opportunities facing our coastal ecosystems.

For more information and to access the full report and previous reports, visit CoastalGaDNR.org/ReportCard.

About the Coastal Resources Division

The mission of the Coastal Resources Division is to balance coastal development and protection of the coast's natural assets, socio-cultural heritage and recreational resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

Media Contact

Tyler Jones
Public Information Officer
Coastal Resources Division
Georgia Department of Natural Resources