Mussel Watch Program

Geographical coverage

Geographical scale of the assessment National
Country or countries covered United States
Any other necessary information or explanation for identifying the location of the assessment, including site or region name

Conceptual framework, methodology and scope

Assessment objectives

Mussel Watch supports NOAA ecosystem-based management through an integrated program of environmental monitoring, assessment, and research to describe the current status of pollution and to detect changes in the environmental quality of our nation's estuarine and coastal waters.

Mandate for the assessment

NOAA established the Mussel Watch Project in 1986 in response to requirements of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (33 USC 1442), which called on the Secretary of Commerce to, among other activities, initiate a continuing monitoring program to assess the health of the marine environment including monitoring of contaminant levels in biota, sediment and the water column. The Project was patterned after earlier environmental monitoring projects that utilized bivalve mollusks as sentinel organisms, notably the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Mussel Watch programs (1965-72, and 1976-78) and the California State Mussel Watch Program. These programs were either regional in scope, monitored a selected, small suite of contaminants, or were terminated. NOAA’s Mussel Watch Project was designed to assure nationwide sampling coverage, establish consistent field sampling methodology and analytical protocols, and broaden the suite of chemical analytes.

Conceptual framework and/or methodology used for the assessment

Other (please specify)

URL or copy of conceptual framework developed or adapted

System(s) assessed

  • Marine
  • Coastal

Species groups assessed

bivalves (mussels and oysters); sediment

Ecosystem services/functions assessed


  • Food


  • Regulation of water quality

Supporting Services/Functions

Cultural Services

Scope of assessment includes

Drivers of change in systems and services


Impacts of change in services on human well-being


Options for responding/interventions to the trends observed


Explicit consideration of the role of biodiversity in the systems and services covered by the assessment


Timing of the assessment

Year assessment started

Pre 2000

Year assessment finished


If ongoing, year assessment is anticipated to finish

Periodicity of assessment


If repeated, how frequently

Sampling conducted annually (individual sites sampled every other year)

Assessment outputs


Communication materials (e.g. brochure, presentations, posters, audio-visual media)

Journal publications

Apeti, D. A., G. G. Lauenstein, and D. W. Evans. "Recent status of total mercury and methyl mercury in the coastal waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico using oysters and sediments from NOAA’s Mussel Watch program." Marine Pollution Bulletin (2012) 64(11): 2399-2408.

Apeti, Dennis A., Gunnar G. Lauenstein, and Gerhardt F. Riedel. "Cadmium distribution in coastal sediments and mollusks of the US." Marine Pollution Bulletin 58.7 (2009): 1016-1024.

Johnson, W. E., et al. "Chemical contamination assessment of Gulf of Mexico oysters in response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita." Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 150.1 (2009): 211-225.

Kimbrough, K. L., et al. "Chemical contamination assessment of the Hudson–Raritan Estuary as a result of the attacks on the World Trade Center: Analysis of trace elements." Marine Pollution Bulletin 60.12 (2010): 2289-2296.

Lauenstein, G. G., and K. L. Kimbrough. "Chemical contamination of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary as a result of the attack on the World Trade Center: Analysis of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls in mussels and sediment." Marine Pollution Bulletin 54.3 (2007): 284-294.

Lauenstein, Gunnar G., and Kostas D. Daskalakis. "US long-term coastal contaminant temporal trends determined from mollusk monitoring programs, 1965–1993." Marine Pollution Bulletin 37.1 (1998): 6-13.

O’Connor, Thomas P., and Gunnar G. Lauenstein. "Trends in chemical concentrations in mussels and oysters collected along the US coast: Update to 2003." Marine Environmental Research 62.4 (2006): 261-285.

Training materials

Other documents/outputs

Tools and processes

Tools and approaches used in the assessment

  • Indicators

Process used for stakeholder engagement in the assessment process and which component

Key stakeholder groups engaged

The number of people directly involved in the assessment process

Incorporation of scientific and other types of knowledge

  • Scientific information only

Supporting documentation for specific approaches, methodology or criteria developed and/or used to integrate knowledge systems into the assessment

Assessment reports peer reviewed



Accessibility of data used in assessment

Policy impact

Impacts the assessment has had on policy and/or decision making, as evidenced through policy references and actions

Independent or other review on policy impact of the assessment


Lessons learnt for future assessments from these reviews

Capacity building

Capacity building needs identified during the assessment

Actions taken by the assessment to build capacity

How have gaps in capacity been communicated to the different stakeholders

Knowledge generation

Gaps in knowledge identified from the assessment

How gaps in knowledge have been communicated to the different stakeholders

Additional relevant information