At least 173 species occurring in Biscayne Bay, its coastal wetlands or uplands, including barrier
islands, can be found on a list of protected species (either federal or state listings). The bay
and adjacent wetlands may support more than 300 species of fish and possibly more invertebrates.
Prominent listed species occurring within BBAP include the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus
latirostris), American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), and Johnson's seagrass
(Halophila johnsonii). Several shorebird species are listed as Species of Special Concern
due to habitat decline and degradation. Sea turtles were hunted in large numbers in Biscayne Bay in
the 1800s and their populations were decimated until they were protected federally in the 1960s.
Manatees are regarded as the most seriously endangered animal in Biscayne Bay. BBAP personnel have
attended the Manatee Awareness Group coalition since 2003. The BBAP manager has served as chair for
the quarterly meetings, which rotate between Miami-Dade (MDC), Broward, and Palm Beach counties.
Federal, state, local and municipal law enforcement agencies join marine industries, agencies,
educators, non-profit organizations and education groups to look at issues involving enforcement,
education and awareness, and mortality data. BBAP staff review data and information about topics
such as rules for how protected species will be listed by FWC, data that is available from the
updating of the DERM Manatee Protection Plan. The MDC Manatee Protection Plan considers Biscayne
Bay and its tributaries essential habitat for the West Indian manatee because they provide foraging
areas in seagrass beds, warm water refugia during cold fronts, freshwater sources, other aggregation
sites, and travel corridors between these areas.
This sleeping manatee in an Aventura marina, with a boat and condo reflected in the water
alongside this dock, illustrates the vulnerability of manatees to boat accidents.
American crocodile critical habitat includes Card Sound in northern Key Largo, where BBAP overlaps
with the 6,600 acres of the Crocodile Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Management programs at
Crocodile Lakes include hammock restoration, crocodile habitat enhancement, and Key Largo woodrat
captive breeding. Critical nesting habitat exists within the Florida Power and Light cooling canal
system and is largely responsible for the crocodile's comeback over the past 20 years. Florida
Power and Light provides reports to the federal government several times a year to report on the
number of adults, nests, and hatchlings as well as any deaths attributed to human causes.
The worldwide distribution of Johnson's seagrass, the only marine plant to be listed under the
federal Endangered Species Act, extends only from northern Biscayne Bay northward to Sebastian Inlet
in Brevard County. A significant portion of the BBAP is considered to be critical habitat for
Johnson's seagrass and this threatened species is generally not found south of the Rickenbacker
Causeway. BBAP reviews project permits that might have negative impacts on Johnson's seagrass or its
habitat. In 2002 NOAA approved the recovery plan drafted to protect Johnson's seagrass and
identified threats to the plant's survival, cryptic reproductive strategy, and critical habitat.
The City of Miami and FWC created a Critical Wildlife Area (CWA) on the western side of Virginia Key
in the 1980s as a shore and water bird roost and rookery which was later expanded to include shallow
seagrass beds important to manatees and renamed for Bill Sadowski. BBAP staff jointly manage this
area with FWC regional biologists who are headquartered several counties north. With support from
the regional biologist, BBAP obtained a five year permit in 2010 from FWC to conduct semi-annual
bird surveys in partnership with the Tropical Audubon Society within the boundaries of this year
round no-entry zone to determine what species of birds are using this area and how they are using
the area (nesting, feeding, roosting, etc).
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