Point of View: Why should you celebrate National Estuaries Week with us?

The No. 1 reason is that you call one home! Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet are both estuaries. So, what is an estuary? An estuary is a coastal area where saltwater from the sea mixes with freshwater from rivers. They are the gateways to the ocean.

Estuaries play a number of important roles in our lives. For instance, they provide essential habitat for numerous species, including two-thirds of the fish and shellfish we eat. Estuaries are nicknamed the “nurseries of the sea” because many different species use these areas to breed and to raise their young. In Kachemak Bay, this includes species such as salmon, herring, crabs, clams and mussels. Marine mammals such as sea otters, seals and whales also use Kachemak Bay for breeding, feeding and protection. Due to its biological productivity, it has been classified as a Critical Habitat Area and a National Estuarine Research Reserve, the only Reserve in the state. The Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (KBNERR) is an organization that integrates place-based research, long-term monitoring, education and outreach to encourage stewardship of this area.

Estuaries also directly support the communities who live around them by improving water quality and providing buffers to protect shorelines from erosion and flooding. They are also great places for the public to participate in outdoor recreational activities. Birding, hiking, kayaking, biking and fishing are just some of the many exciting things you can spot local Alaskans and tourists participating in around Kachemak Bay.

As a North Carolinian, I’ve spent a lot of time around estuaries, and I have to say that Kachemak Bay is the most diverse estuary I have visited. I highly encourage you to get out there and explore it, and there is no better time than National Estuaries Week.

National Estuaries Week is an annual celebration of our nation’s estuaries presented by NOAA. It will be held from Sept. 16-23 this year.

The focus is to encourage people to visit, enjoy, learn about, and protect the amazing estuaries that we call home. This week is an excellent opportunity to celebrate estuaries for all the amazing things they provide. From fun recreational activities to environmental benefits, there are many reasons to celebrate!

KBNERR will be hosting several events during the week, including Trivia at Alice’s on Monday, Sept. 18, a Beluga Slough Walk on Sept. 19 and a Science Pub Lunch Club on Friday, Sept. 22.

These event details will be available on KBNERR’s Facebook page. Other ways to get involved are attending science talks and discovery labs hosted at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center later this month.

We would love to see the fun you get into during National Estuaries Week so follow KBNERR on Facebook and post your activities with the hashtag #wadein.

Desiree Jenkins is a Kachemak Bay Campus Semester By the Bay student from Wilmington, North Carolina, and is interning for the KBNERR. She is majoring in marine biology with a concentration in conservation. At KBNERR, she works closely with Ingrid Harrald as an education and outreach intern. She is grateful to be in Homer and excited to see what this beautiful town has to offer.