Florida Bay is a unique section of Everglades National Park—an incredible water wilderness where you can lose yourself in the quiet calm of its waters or delight in the wonders of what you find beneath the surface. It is a true marine wilderness complete with tiny mangrove islands alive with birds, shallow basins carpeted with seagrass that harbor juvenile fish, and "flats" or sandbar areas where the water may only be a few inches deep and game fish thrive.
The Bay is also home to nesting sea turtles, sharks, crocodiles, alligators, and manatees, which can easily be spotted in the shallow, clear water. It is one of the few marine areas in the U.S. that someone kayaking or canoeing could go a week or more without seeing signs of civilization.
But this unique marine harbor is facing a gathering threat. Ironically, the very attributes of the Bay that draw boaters and fisherman to the area every year, are at greatest risk from the park's many admirers. Florida Bay is the only place in the United States where the water is so shallow and so clear, that fisherman can participate in what is known as flats fishing - or fishing by sight. The Bay is home to a tremendous nursery of large fish such as tarpon, who thrive in the shallow areas and in the sea grass.
While many local fisherman have navigated Florida Bay's waterways for decades, recreational fisherman and boaters new to the area may not be educated enough to navigate the shallow waters and backcountry maze of Florida Bay, and may end up running aground or tearing up the seagrass, which can take decades to grow back. As more people look for secluded places to relax or fish, they venture into environmentally sensitive areas, and violate closed areas that were established to protect wildlife.
The clear waters and renowned flats fishing of Florida Bay draws an increasing number of boaters every year, which intensifies the pressures on wildlife and the ecosystem. This translates to more recreational fisherman in the park, while the number of rangers to oversee activities in the park has decreased.
Florida Bay is the endpoint for the water that flows through the Everglades. This freshwater nourishes fishery nursery grounds to create a balance between fresh and salt water that juvenile fish need. Restricted water flows to the Bay mean saltier water for fish and seagrasses, which have caused large declines in both.
NPCA has established our Florida Bay Marine Fisheries campaign to work with Park rangers, local fisherman, and residents of the communities surrounding the Bay and help promote better awareness for the fisheries issues facing the Park. By getting these groups to work together, NPCA hopes to instill a sense of stewardship in them for the resources in their backyard. This sense of stewardship will help rangers preserve the beauty of the Park for future generations to come.
- Learn more about how you can help protect wildlife.
- Learn more about NPCA's Great Waters program.
- Learn more about NPCA's Sun Coast Regional Office.
- Learn more about Everglades National Park.