Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve
Biscayne Bay is home to two state aquatic preserves, part of a system of 41 aquatic preserves around the state managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas. The first aquatic preserve in Biscayne Bay borders Deering Estate at Cutler and was established in 1974. It runs the length of Biscayne Bay, from the headwaters of the Oleta River down to Card Sound near Key Largo and comprises approximately 63,000 submerged acres. The second aquatic preserve, named the Biscayne Bay- Cape Florida to Monroe County Line, was established in 1975 and lies offshore of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Management of the nearly 70,000 acres of submerged lands that comprise the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserves’ (BBAP) are established in Chapter 18-18 Florida Administrative Code., according to its designation in Chapter 258.397, Florida Statutes. Through these provisions, BBAP was established for the purpose of preserving and enhancing Biscayne Bay and all natural waterways tidally connected to the bay in an essentially natural condition so that its biological and aesthetic values may endure for the enjoyment of future generations. BBAP provides habitat for a wide variety of juvenile and adult marine species including several of Florida’s imperiled species, such as the west Indian manatee, the smalltooth sawfish, the American crocodile, and Johnson’s seagrass. Other vital resources of the BBAP include expansive hardbottom communities with corals, sponges and algae, mangrove-lined shores, and a variety of invertebrate species throughout the length of the bay. Seagrass beds within the BBAP, especially along the shores of the Deering Estate, are prime feeding areas for wading birds and a valuable nursery area for juvenile fish and invertebrates, including many of commercial interest. The Cutler Slough Rehydration Project will restore a more natural flow of freshwater to BBAP, reducing salinity levels and supporting BBAP’s nursery habitat for fish and invertebrate species.