The Great Bay Reserve is dedicated to helping New Hampshire citizens enjoy, understand, and protect the Great Bay Estuary so that its benefits may be enjoyed for generations. Established in 1989, we are a place for scientists and decision makers to connect around critical issues, for teachers and students to take science out of the abstract and outside, and for everyone to explore the beauty and wonder of New Hampshire’s hidden coast. As part of New Hampshire Fish & Game, we work with many partners to address urgent, complex problems like how to protect water quality, sustain local fisheries, manage our natural lands, and adapt to a changing climate.
What We Do
The Great Bay Reserve is a coastal protected area tucked in and among the communities of New Hampshire’s Great Bay. The Reserve serves as a platform for long-term research and monitoring programs that study how the bay functions and changes. It is a place where we work with partners to test, demonstrate, and share effective resource management practices and strategies. And it is an outdoor classroom where people of all ages can learn how their actions impact the health of the bay that makes living in this area so special.
Through our research, monitoring, stewardship, education, and community outreach programs, we share what we learn at our Reserve with decision makers, educators, students, and citizens throughout New Hampshire. As a member of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, we work with partners nationwide to protect people and places along America’s coasts. To learn more, download the 2020-2025 Management Plan.
Who We Are
The Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is a division of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. Our staff of scientists, educators, and outreach specialists work with approximately 200 volunteers every year in support of our mission to understand and protect the health of Great Bay. Meet our staff.
Places We Protect
The Great Bay Reserve manages and protects 10,235 acres of open water, fields, and forests in and around the Great Bay Estuary—a place where the Gulf of Maine meets the Salmon Falls, Cocheco, Bellamy, Oyster, Lamprey, Squamscott, and Winnicut rivers. Ocean water travels 15 miles inland to reach Great Bay, making it one of the nation’s most inland estuaries. The bay is often referred to as New Hampshire’s “hidden coast,” and among its treasures you will find oyster reefs and eelgrass beds, mudflats and salt marsh, rocky tidal shores, and upland forest and fields.
Partners We Rely On
The Great Bay Reserve runs on the power of strong national, state, and local partnerships.
National: We are one of 30 sites in the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS). Established by the Coastal Zone Management Act in 1972, this network is dedicated to the science-based management of coastal and estuarine environments. Each Reserve is a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office for Coastal Management and a U.S. state or protectorate, university, or nonprofit. NOAA provides funding and guidance, and the state partner provides a place and a vision while managing the Reserve and its programs.
We are also fortunate to have the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association in our corner. This national nonprofit works with Reserves, partners, and friends groups nationwide to act as a strong, outside voice in advocating for Reserves in many ways. NERRA is a “big tent” organization that welcomes all Reserve friends and fans —that’s more than 36,000 people nationwide!
State: The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (NHFG) manages our Reserve and maintains its lands as Wildlife Management Areas. As the guardian of the state’s fish, wildlife, and marine resources, NHFG works in partnership with the public to conserve, manage. and protect these resources and their habitats; inform and educate the public about these resources; and provide the public with opportunities to use and appreciate these resources.
Local: The Great Bay Stewards are the non-profit partner of our Reserve and our “best friends” in New Hampshire. They raise funds for our programs, build our capacity to provide critical science, education, and land stewardship, and raise awareness of the need to understand and protect Great Bay.