Biscayne Bay is home to two state aquatic preserves. The first, Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve, was established in 1974 and runs the length of Biscayne Bay, from the headwaters of the Oleta River down to Card Sound near Key Largo and comprises approximately 64,607 submerged acres. The second aquatic preserve, named Biscayne Bay-Cape Florida to Monroe County Line, was established in 1975 to protect 4,163 submerged acres. Much of the submerged lands and islands originally included within its boundary are now within either Biscayne National Park or within the larger Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve. The two preserves are collectively known as the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserves (BBAP).
Biscayne Bay is a unique waterbody along the southeast Atlantic shoreline of the United States because it was not formed by the drowning of a river. Instead, Biscayne Bay formed between 5,000 and 2,400 years ago as sea level rose to fill the depression between two ridges. Biscayne Bay provides habitat for a wide variety of juvenile and adult marine species as well as several of Florida's imperiled species, including the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris), the smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata), the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) and Johnson's seagrass (Halophila johnsonii). Johnson's seagrass is the first and only marine plant to be listed as 'Threatened' on the Endangered Species List and resides in northern BBAP.
BBAP can be thought of as three distinctive sections: Northern, Central and Southern. Northern Biscayne Bay begins where the Oleta River empties into Biscayne Bay and ends at the Rickenbacker Causeway, south of where the Miami River empties into the bay. South of the Rickenbacker Causeway is regarded as Central Biscayne Bay, where the bay experiences open flushing with the ocean at its eastern most edge and is not separated by any causeways or bridges. The central section extends south from the Rickenbacker Causeway to where BBAP meets the northern boundary of Biscayne National Park and extends 3 nautical miles east of the southern tip of Key Biscayne. The central section of the bay also includes Biscayne Bay-Cape Florida to Monroe County Line Aquatic Preserve. The Southern section of BBAP begins at the southern boundary of Biscayne National Park at Cutter Bank, just south of the Arsenicker Keys and Broad Creek, and terminates where Little Card Sound connects to Barnes Sound under the Card Sound Road Bridge.
Florida has one of the longest coastlines in the United States, with more than 75 percent of residents living in coastal communities. Miami-Dade County, which continues to be Florida's most populous county with 2,662,900 residents and 13.4 percent of Florida's population, extends the length of Biscayne Bay. Projections for Miami-Dade expect its population to increase to 2,822,561 people in 2020 and to 3,145,864 by 2030. Monroe County is adjacent to Card Sound and Southern Biscayne Bay and home to an estimated 76,047 residents in 2016; however, visitors from other areas make use of the county, known as a premier fishing and scuba diving destination.
Prehistoric settlements along the shores of Biscayne Bay were established by the Tequesta Native American tribe of the Glades and Archaic cultures. Middens of rock or shell, burials and other sites have been found along the Miami River and Biscayne Bay's shore. The Tequesta lived along the mouth of streams, inlets and coastal beaches on both sides of Biscayne Bay, utilizing dugout canoes to access the bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The Tequesta ate numerous aquatic species including marine turtles, sharks, sailfish, stingrays, manatees and dolphins. The Miami Circle is the most significant site that documents the Tequesta and contains limestone rocks, black midden, soil, animal bones, marine shells and some artifacts. The circle is believed to be part of a settlement that covered both shores of the Miami River's outlet to Biscayne Bay. On Feb. 5, 2002, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, then declared a National Historic Landmark on Jan. 16, 2009. Learn more about the Miami Circle.
February 20, 2019 - 9:06am
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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.