What is Sea Grant?

Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse with clear, blue water ripples and rocky seaweed in the background
Sea Grant 101

The National Sea Grant College Program (Sea Grant) was established by the U.S. Congress in 1966 and consists of a network of 34 university-based programs. Sea Grant programs are located in every coastal and Great Lakes state, as well as in Puerto Rico and Guam.

As mandated by Congress, Sea Grant's mission is to foster the sustainable development of the nation's coastal resources. Operating through a university-based network, Sea Grant supports research, education, and extension to help balance the conservation of coastal and marine resources with a sustainable economy and environment. Sea Grant addresses a broad range of issues including aquaculture, fisheries, coastal resilience, ecosystem health, environmental literacy, workforce development, and marine policy.

In this framework, Sea Grant provides unique expertise for those who live and work in our coastal environments and those who make decisions about these resources. Sea Grant uses research results to solve real-world problems, prepares the next generation to be scientifically literate about the marine environment, and provides fair, accurate and balanced scientific information to all those with a stake in marine management.

Each program receives federal funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. In addition, every federal dollar invested in Sea Grant must be matched by at least 50% from non-federal sources. This requirement ensures that each Sea Grant program focuses a major portion of its efforts on addressing the needs of its state and region.

What is Sea Grant College Status?

Sea Grant College status is the top tier of programs within the National Sea Grant College Program. Designation as a Sea Grant College is based on a demonstrated record of superior performance in marine and coastal resource programs and signifies that the Sea Grant program is addressing the needs of its state. 

UNH Becomes a Sea Grant College

In 1980, the Maine-New Hampshire Sea Grant Program became the first bi-state program in the country, an entity that combined the resources of two major universities (the University of Maine and the University of New Hampshire) to address marine problems, issues, and opportunities.

Blue New Hampshire Sea Grant logo

In October 2000, Maine and New Hampshire Sea Grant separated, creating two fully distinct programs. Growth in the marine research communities and funding at both universities allowed for this development. The University of New Hampshire received full National Sea Grant College status in 2003, followed by the University of Maine in 2004.

Since officially achieving college status, New Hampshire Sea Grant has been able to focus its efforts on the unique needs and opportunities found within the Granite State.

UNH as a Land, Sea, and Space Grant Institution

The University of New Hampshire (UNH) was founded in 1866 as the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts. One of the nation's earliest land grant institutions, it was endowed with public lands from the federal government to provide practical courses relevant to the state's rural population.

In 1914, Congress created the Cooperative Extension Service, staffing each state's counties with extension agents who could "extend" campus research to people throughout the state. In this way, land grant universities would serve not only the needs of formal students, but also those of each state's citizens.

In 1966, responding to concerns about the nation's marine and coastal resources, Congress established the National Sea Grant College Program. The term "Sea Grant" was chosen to emphasize the parallel between this new program focusing on the nation's marine resources and the land grant program that had been established a century earlier to develop agricultural resources. Similarly, in 1989, another university-based program, the National Space Grant and Fellowship Program, was formed within NASA, with UNH designation following in 1991.

Just as land grant institutions continue to serve the needs of their state in agricultural and natural resources, family development and youth education, Sea Grant colleges and universities research new ideas and technologies to promote the understanding, wise use, and stewardship of marine and coastal resources.

At UNH, New Hampshire Sea Grant supports a range of marine research efforts and then works with UNH Cooperative Extension to disseminate the results of that research to those who can benefit from it.

NH Sea Grant's Mission & Approach

NH Sea Grant's Strategic Plan

NH Sea Grant's UNH Partnerships