The Boca Ciega Bay and Pinellas County aquatic preserves (referred to collectively as the Pinellas County Aquatic Preserves) were designated in 1968 and 1972, respectively. Boca Ciega Bay was designated as an aquatic preserve to aid in halting the wholesale dredging and filling of the bay that occurred with the finger fill developments of the 1950s. Pinellas County Aquatic Preserve was designated to help prevent the events in Boca Ciega Bay from being repeated elsewhere.
Due to the broad expanse of the preserves, almost all habitats and levels of impact can be seen. These preserves include the nearly pristine waters offshore of Palm Harbor as well as the heavily impacted waters of Boca Ciega Bay. There are unspoiled mangrove islands as well as miles of canals bounded by seawalls. These preserves include the western portion of Tampa Bay (including Safety Harbor and Old Tampa Bay), Clearwater Bay, St. Joseph Sound, oceanic waters westward to the county line, as well as certain fresh waters such as Lake Tarpon and portions of Lake Seminole.
The preserves include nearshore habitats along sandy beaches and mangrove-dominated shorelines. Submerged habitats include oyster bars, seagrass beds, coral communities and springfed caves. Abundant islands, including those formed from dredge spoil material, are also part of the preserve. Approximately one-third of Florida's coral species can be found in the Pinellas County Aquatic Preserve.
Despite the heavy urbanization of Pinellas County, these aquatic preserves support a variety of means for people to get back to nature on the water. Sport fishing and boating are done even in the heavily impacted areas, such as Boca Ciega Bay. Canoeing, kayaking, swimming and nature observation are popular in other parts of the county. In addition, some spoil islands are used for camping. There are several state parks that help ensure these opportunities will remain available. However, Anclote Key Preserve State Park, Caladesi Island State Park and Egmont Key State Park are accessible only by private boat or ferry. Segment 8 of the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail passes through Pinellas County.
Volunteers and interns play an integral part in the aquatic preserve staff's ability to reach management goals. Individuals and groups (such as Eagle Scouts, corporate groups, student groups and neighborhood associations) are encouraged to help with island restoration projects such as trash removal, non-native plant removal and restoring native plants to these important habitats.
Location: Pinellas County
Acreage: 350,000 acres of sovereign submerged lands
Contact: Randy Runnels, Manager Tampa Bay Aquatic Preserves 130 77th Street East Terra Ceia, FL 34250 230-530-1011
September 6, 2017 - 10:19am
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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.