The Wisconsin Sea Grant College Program is the first in the Great Lakes region and exemplifies the best science for the sustainable use of the inland seas’ resources. Since 1968, this fully integrated program has translated its significant research findings into outreach and education across Wisconsin to ensure healthy coastal ecosystems, safe and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, enhanced coastal community sustainability and resiliency, and support for building environmental literacy and workforce development through collaborative relationships responsive to stakeholders and users. The results are measurable impacts on society, the economy and environment.

All activities take place within the structure of the University of Wisconsin Aquatic Sciences Center (ASC). The University of Wisconsin System Sea Grant College Program is headquartered on the system’s flagship campus – the University of Wisconsin-Madison – and includes additional offices on campuses in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Milwaukee and Superior, all coastal cities in Wisconsin. ASC is the administrative home of the Sea Grant Institute and UW Water Resources Institute two organizations with complementary missions. 

It is a unique partnership of federal, state, university, and private sectors that reflects "The Wisconsin Idea" in action.

In October 1972, U.S. Secretary of Commerce

Peter G. Peterson designated the University of Wisconsin a Sea Grant College for its "sustained excellence in research, education and public service dedicated to wise use of America's marine resources."

Policy and operational responsibilities for the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant College Program were formally transferred to University of Wisconsin-Madison on December 1, 1978. At the same time, the Sea Grant Institute was created as an academic unit under the UW-Madison Graduate School.

The institute was assigned the responsibility for administering the Sea Grant College Program for the UW System. Though the Sea Grant Institute is headquartered on the Madison campus, the Wisconsin Sea Grant College Program is UW System-wide and statewide in scope.

The University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Advisory Council, appointed by the chancellor of the UW-Madison campus, provides policy guidance within established institutional goals, advises regarding the overall program plan and budget, and participates in program planning and the selection of subject areas within which project proposals are solicited. The council brings a wide variety of viewpoints to the program; its members represent other units of the university system, state and local government, industry, and the public -- which ensures the accountability of the program to users and participants.

In 1992, the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Committee on Advisory Services was formed to provide

additional guidance on the direction of the program's outreach efforts. The University of Wisconsin program has historically emphasized research on microcontaminants and water quality, fishery and ecosystem dynamics, and estuarine systems and management.

Though many of the program's coordinated research activities center on the resources and problems of the Great Lakes, much of Wisconsin Sea Grant's research and outreach activities are national, some international, in scope. We are continually building on these strengths.Our work was again positively recognized by a 2011 program review by a National Sea Grant Office team, which noted, "The leadership of the Wisconsin Sea Grant Program is outstanding." The site review team also identified four best-management practices that other programs in the network may wish to adopt.