The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) is a system of 27 reserves around the country (and Puerto Rico) developed to protect the biologically, ecologically, economically, and aesthetically important areas along our coasts known as estuaries. Estuaries occur where our rivers meet the sea - where fresh and salt water mix to create a unique and very productive ecosystem vital to life both on land and in the sea. The Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve (JC NERR) is one of the 2 national estuarine reserves created to promote the responsible use and management of the nation's estuaries through a program combining scientific research, education, and stewardship.
The JC NERR encompasses approximately 115,000 acres in southeastern New Jersey, including a great variety of terrestrial, wetland and aquatic habitats within the Mullica River-Great Bay ecosystem. The Reserve is a concentrated patchwork of federal and state lands managed in partnership through a variety of agencies. With little more than 1% of the Reserve subjected to human development, this area is regarded as one of the least disturbed estuaries in the densely populated urban corridor of the Northeastern United States. Occurring within the unique New Jersey Pinelands forest ecosystem, on the coastal plain and the barrier islands of the coastal margin, the Mullica River-Great Bay estuary is of special ecological value. The high environmental quality of the habitats within the Cousteau Reserve are consistent with the objective of the Reserve system to preserve areas which retain a healthy ecosystem and provide the opportunity to serve the needs of long-term research and monitoring programs.