Much of Florida's distinctive character lies in the beauty of its coastline. The best of our coastal landscapes have been set aside for protection as aquatic preserves. This natural beauty has always been one of Florida's major attractions for both tourists and residents. Ironically, the very features that have drawn people to Florida are potentially endangered by the increased population pressures. Aquatic preserves protect the living waters of Florida to ensure that they will always be home for bird rookeries and fish nurseries ... freshwater springs and salt marshes ... seagrass meadows and mangrove forests.
These natural wonders offer a window into Florida's natural and cultural heritage. In 1975, with growing appreciation for their environmental diversity and alluring beauty, Florida enacted the Aquatic Preserve Act. This ensured that aquatic preserves' natural condition, "their aesthetic, biological, and scientific values may endure for the enjoyment of future generations."
Today, Florida is fortunate to have 41 aquatic preserves, encompassing approximately 2.2 million acres. All but four of these "submerged lands of exceptional beauty" are located along Florida's 8,400 miles of coastline in the shallow waters of marshes and estuaries. These waters are ours to enjoy and ours to protect.
These pristine waters act as critical nurseries for fish and other aquatic life. This is where our fishing industry begins. Bottlenose dolphins break the water's surface and manatees feed on the seagrasses. Wading and shore birds, including pelicans, ospreys, and roseate spoonbills, thrive in the shallow waters.
Approximately two-thirds of Floridians live in counties that border an aquatic preserve. Aquatic preserves are vital to Florida's quality of life. Residents and visitors enjoy swimming, fishing, boating and paddling through the preserves, often unaware that the waters are being protected and preserved for generations to come.
Numerous archaeological sites found along and within the aquatic preserves attest to early human habitation. Like many people today, early explorers found them attractive places to live. Shell mounds, which are heaps of the discarded remains from early meals, bear the evidence of early human communities and add to their cultural and historical value.
Aquatic preserves' natural heritage is entrusted to us ... to explore, experience and protect ... for future generations.
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The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.