Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve – A Win-Win for Manatees, Jobs, and Tourism!

The Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve located in Crystal River, Florida, contains about 400,000 acres of seagrass meadows. On July 6, 2020, it is now protected by Florida law – great news for manatees!
Charlie Shoemaker
 The Pew Charitable Trusts

Greetings! Here’s some great news for you and for manatees! On July 6, 2020, the Florida House and Senate passed legislation protecting approximately 400,000 acres of seagrass, which Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law. The Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve located on the west coast of Florida, just off Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco counties is actually the newest preserve now protected in more than 30 years. It is also the 42nd in Florida designed to maintain high water quality, along with excellent biological value, which is needed to ensure healthy ecosystems.

The preserve overlaps the Gulf of Mexico’s largest seagrass bed will still allow boating, fishing, and scalloping. Mike Desabrais, Vice President of Port Hudson Fishing Club explains, “Lawmakers and the governor have significantly helped that environment, and future generations will see great value in their efforts.” This new law will help support businesses and tourism for generations to come.

It was Florida Representative Ralph Massullo and Senator Ben Albritton who sponsored bills – H.B. 1061 and S.B. 1042, which created this new preserve. “The Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve received widespread support with more than 100 Nature Coast businesses, nine state and national recreational fishing and marine industry organizations, the Citrus and Hernando county commissions, and The Pew Charitable Trusts.”

Underwater seagrass is the main diet for manatees. It also provides food, shelter, and nursery areas for a number of marine animals. Clean water is essential for healthy seagrass. This now protected ecosystem supplies a number of activities, from scalloping, world-class sport fishing, and internationally renowned manatee-watching to harvesting stone crabs and shrimp. “Seagrass-related activities in the region generate more than $600 million annually for the economy, provide more than 10,000 jobs, and support about 500 businesses.”

Kellie Ralston, Policy Director for the American Sportfishing Association says, “Establishing the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve is an important step to address water quality and habitat conservation for some of Florida’s most iconic fisheries. Sport fishing in the state supports more than 106,000 jobs and has an economic impact of $11.5 billion. We appreciate the leadership of Senator Albritton, Representative Massullo, the Legislature, and Governor to move this bill across the finish line to ensure that Florida remains the Fishing Capital of the World.” 

“The need for water quality protections in Florida is growing more urgent in the face of increasing pollution threats. In recent years, red tides and other harmful algae blooms on both coasts fueled by nutrient-laden runoff have taken a severe toll on fishing and tourism businesses. A new preserve on the state’s west coast could add a layer of protection to help avert such a disaster there. The aquatic preserve will also be designated as an Outstanding Florida Water, which is the state’s highest level of water quality protection and is assigned to areas worthy of special safeguards.”

As each new preserve is created, Florida develops a management plan – with the input from local governments, citizens, and other stakeholders. This is overseen by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Stay tuned for more cool stuff in my future blogs!

If you see any sick or injured manatees, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at: 1-888-404-FWCC. They are the folks who are responsible for rescuing us in Florida.

Here’s the Save the Manatee Club link to learn more about us manatees …

Here’s a cool link for you to learn more about how we’re rescued and brought into rehabilitation …

~ Kobee Manatee

Related Posts

 “Seagrass Can Store Carbon for Centuries – Millennia” – Dr. Oscar Serrano (February 4, 2016)