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Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserves Project Spotlight

"A reflection of both sky & skyline; a home for countless fish, mammals, & invertebrates; the people's source of a good time & a living; and what makes southeast Florida a special place."

Marsha Colbert, Former Aquatic Preserve Manager


Miami-Dade and Monroe counties


67,000 acres of sovereign submerged lands


Pamela Sweeney
Aquatic Preserve Manager
1277 79th Street Causeway
Miami, FL 33138
(305) 795-3486

Canoeists in front of the Miami skyline

Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve is featured in a documentary produced by the City of Miami.

Key Accomplishments

  • Forming partnerships to assess and protect the aquatic resources within the preserve, including seagrasses and manatees. This provides an improved capacity for staff to better manage these resources.
  • Participation in a nationally recognized youth challenge program to provide training; hands-on activities include measuring water quality, observing weather conditions, and sampling plankton. In addition to enhancing community awareness. Benefits of the program include participants reporting a greater interest in pursuing scientific careers.
  • Active involvement in community-wide special events; outcomes range from challenging people to "name that animal and how it lives" to "getting them involved" in removing marine debris from the environment, including monofilament line which entangles sea birds and marine life.

Volunteers after the trash pickup - Photo courtesy of Kathryn Wanless

Coastal Clean-up

For the past three years, Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve has partnered with the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup on the third Saturday in September. Almost one ton (approximately 1700 pounds) of trash has been collected, cataloged, and removed from the shorelines of Pelican Harbor marina where our office resides. Over 100 volunteers have participated, including high school and university students and adults with a commitment to community service. The most unusual items found so far include a child's bike and a shopping cart, but sea beans from plants as far away as South America are a treasure to keep. Much of the trash was plastics, whether bottles or bags, which are degrading the nursery grounds of the red mangrove prop roots on the bay islands' margins.

Management Plan Development

A management plan for the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserves has been approved.

 Quick Facts about Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve
Map of Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve


Canoeists near mangroves

Canoeists enjoy contrasting settings - mangrove shorelines and over seagrass beds with an urban skyscape.

Johnson's seagrass

Johnson's seagrass

Florida manatee surfacing for air

Florida manatee surfaces for air

  • The bay is unusual because it was not formed by sea level rise at a river's mouth. It is a depression between two different types of limestone.
  • Miami Beach, Virginia Key, Key Biscayne, and Key Largo are underlain by coral reef limestone formed by marine life.
  • The mainland is composed of oolitic limestone, formed by the physical and chemical conditions within shallow water.
  • The aquatic preserve shares the bay with Biscayne National Park, formerly Biscayne National Monument.
  • The bay supports Johnson's seagrass, a threatened species under federal law (the first marine plant to be listed), found only in southeast Florida.
  • Submerged habitats also include hardbottom areas of algae and sponges, soft sediments of sand or mud, and seagrasses.
  • Florida manatees inhabit the bay and are more often observed in the winter time when they gather in warm water areas during cold fronts.

Last updated: March 20, 2013

  3900 Commonwealth Boulevard M.S. 235 Tallahassee, Florida 32399 850-245-2094 (phone) / 850-245-2110 (fax)
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