Peconic Baykeeper is the only independent, not-for-profit advocate solely dedicated to the protection and improvement of the aquatic ecosystems of the Peconic and South Shore estuaries of Long Island. Its clean water mission is advanced through conservation and management initiatives, public education, research, monitoring and participation in the public environmental review of projects and activities that may adversely impact the ecological health of the region's estuarine waters. Where violations of the law threaten water quality or undermine protection of natural resources, our advocacy may include plaintiff litigation. In 1997, Peconic Baykeeper became the 19th keeper organization to be sanctioned by Waterkeeper Alliance.
The Peconic Estuary and its watershed have been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as an estuary of "national significance" and one of 28 areas deserving special protection under the National Estuary Program. (to learn more click on www.epa.gov/nep and www.peconicestuary.org) Its diversity of underwater and coastal habitats supports an exceptional variety of marine life, birds and other wildlife making this a vital economic, recreational and scenic resource for the region. The estuary, located between Long Island's north and south forks, has historically been one of the most productive estuaries on the eastern seaboard. Comprised of over 100 distinct bays, harbors, embayments and tributaries that cover approximately 120,000 acres of surface water, the estuary also features over 3,600 acres of tidal wetlands and 245 linear miles of meandering shoreline. The contributing watershed, the area of land that drains into the Peconic system, encompasses approximately 110,000 acres of eastern Long Island.
The South Shore estuary defines the other sub-region of the Peconic Baykeeper's mission waters. Situated on Long Island's south side and stretching from the Nassau-Queens county line to the middle of the Town of Southampton, the South Shore Estuary was formed during the past 5,000 - 10,000 years by the interaction of rising seas and the glacial moraine that makes up Long Island. This South Shore barrier island system encloses 173 square miles of bays now characterized by tidal marshes, mud and sand flats, beds of underwater vegetation, and estuarine shallows. The watershed area is home to about 1.5 million people, thousands of acres of productive shellfish beds, and numerous rare and endangered species. In 1993, the South Shore Estuary Reserve was declared to be a "resource of unparalleled biological, economic and social value" by the New York State legislature. (to learn more click on www.estuary.cog.ny.us)
Today, the fragility of Long Island's bays has never been more evident, the victims of the very prosperity they helped to create. As sprawl development continues to harden the island's landscape, pollution threatens the vitality and health of our bays. Their recovery depends on the kinds of enlightened coastal management policies and responsible development practices that can be adopted when citizens and communities are informed and engaged in local decision making.