In recognition of the numerous benefits provided by the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, the United States Congress designated the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine system an “estuary of national significance” in 1987. That same year, the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuarine Study (APES) was among the first of 28 National Estuary Programs established by the EPA through amendments to the Clean Water Act.
From 1987 to 1994, APES sponsored nearly one hundred research initiatives in the Albemarle-Pamlico region, each designed to give scientists and managers a better understanding of the ecosystem's health and function. These research initiatives culminated in a series of research papers as well as the development of the Albemarle-Pamlico region’s first Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP). Upon adoption of its first CCMP in 1994, the program became known as the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program as it broadened its mission to include applied conservation, management, and engagement initiatives. In 2012, the program was formally renamed as a partnership, reflecting the importance of coordinated and integrated efforts for protecting and restoring the estuarine ecosystem.
Since its inception, APNEP has led or contributed to scores of conservation efforts in the region. APNEP's first CCMP called for the creation of several environmental initiatives that came to fruition in the form of the Partnership for the Sounds’ Estuarium, the Center for Geographic Analysis, and the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Annual restoration and demonstration projects have improved habitats and water quality throughout the estuarine system. APNEP continues its proud tradition of applied scientific research that began during the APES period, which recently led to the development of environmental indicators for the ecosystem as well as the completion of a coast-wide map of SAV for the estuary. APNEP has supported citizens’ monitoring for over two decades. Finally, outdoor classrooms funded by APNEP dot the region, improving water quality while giving students a place to learn about the natural world. These are just a few of the many ways APNEP continues to benefit the sounds and the ecosystems that support them. For more information visit the initiatives section of our webpage, which contains both past and current program efforts.