"Cape Haze is a Florida place where the sense of wilderness and encounters with the
genuinely wild persist-- where there remains the chance to experience our state's
original bounty and heritage of nature. That's what aquatic preserves are all about."
Ernest D. Estevez, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Coastal Ecology, Mote Marine Laboratory
Interagency agreements and citizen partnerships have led to enhanced public
access to productive fishing in the back bays.
Manatee and seagrass protection areas were established under these same
agreements in early 2005.
Conducted monthly water quality monitoring for
twelve years within the aquatic
preserve. This indicates that water quality is generally good, but
increases in turbidity, bacteria and nutrients are associated with rainwater runoff.
Results from ongoing inter-agency programs and citizen partnerships provide
a basis for understanding long-term changes in water quality and estuary health.
Seagrasses are submerged habitats that serve as an indicator of estuary health. Seagrass health depends on good
water clarity, so changes in water quality, hydrology and salinity directly affect seagrass abundance and diversity.
To characterize seagrass conditions, annual monitoring was established in 1998 at 50 sites throughout the region,
including two sites in Cape Haze. Each fall, data is collected from the shoreline to the deep edge of seagrass beds
to determine species type, abundance, shoot density, blade lengths, maximum depth and sediment type. With help from
research partners and the use of aerial photography, the seagrass data is examined for changes over time. The results
are presented regularly at scientific conferences. Overall, seagrasses appear to be relatively healthy throughout
the region, though there has been some loss of acreage and density over the seven year time period of the study.
However, since the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes, there has been an increase in abundance and acreage. The sites in Cape
Haze are relatively healthy, stable seagrass populations supporting strong fisheries in this aquatic preserve.