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Aquatic Preserve Program

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Safety Updates

At the direction of Governor DeSantis and to successfully uphold CDC guidance to maximize social distancing and avoid gatherings larger than 10 people, DEP will close all Office of Resilience and  Coastal  Protection managed lands to the public effective Tuesday, March 24. This follows the cancellation of events and closure of state parks and National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERRs) facilities  and  education centers to the public earlier this month. 

This closure includes state-owned uplands, such as beaches, islands, sand bars and emergent shoals within aquatic preserves. Vessel landings are strictly prohibited.  

Unless closed by local or county order, state waters in aquatic preserves are open to recreational or commercial fishing and boating at this time, as long as adequate social distancing is observed.  

We appreciate your cooperation and understanding as we work to prioritize the welfare of our communities and staff. We look forward to welcoming you again to our NERRs and aquatic preserves as soon as possible. 

Much of Florida's distinctive character lies in the beauty of its 8,400 miles of coastline. The best of our coastal landscapes, as well as several inland waters, have been set aside for protection as aquatic preserves. Florida's natural beauty always has been a major attraction for both tourists and residents. Ironically, the very features that draw people to Florida are potentially endangered by the increased population pressures. Aquatic preserves protect Florida's living waters to ensure they will always be home for bird rookeries and fish nurseries, freshwater springs and salt marshes, and seagrass meadows and mangrove forests.

These aquatic preserves  — dotted up and down Florida's coastline  — offer a window into the state's natural and cultural heritage. In 1975, with growing appreciation for their environmental diversity and alluring beauty, Florida enacted the Aquatic Preserve Act. This ensures the continuation of aquatic preserves' natural conditions — "their aesthetic, biological and scientific values may endure for the enjoyment of future generations."

Today, Florida has 41 aquatic preserves, encompassing about 2.2 million acres. All but four of these submerged lands are located along Florida's coastline; they are located inland, near springs and rivers. All of these waters are ours to enjoy and protect.

Wildlife Habitat

These pristine waters act as critical nurseries for fish and other aquatic life that are an integral part of the Florida way of life. Bottlenose dolphins break the water's surface and manatees feed on seagrasses. Wading and shore birds — including pelicans, ospreys and roseate spoonbills — thrive in the shallow waters.

Recreation

About 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 the waters are being protected and preserved.

Cultural Heritage

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.

Events & Public Notices

None available at this time.

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