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Cape Haze Aquatic Preserve Project Spotlight

"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 

Key Accomplishments

  • Monthly water quality monitoring since 1996 within Cape Haze Aquatic Preserve. Data program-wide indicates that water quality is generally good, but increases in turbidity, bacteria and nutrients are associated with rain events and stormwater runoff.
  • There are no developments immediately adjacent to Cape Haze Aquatic Preserve because of the establishment of the Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park.
  • Island Bay National Wildlife Refuge is located in Cape Haze Aquatic Preserve, providing an additional level of protection to certain mangrove islands in this pristine area.
  • White Pelican Island, located in Cape Haze Aquatic Preserve, supports a nesting colony of a variety of wading and diving birds. CHAP staff have been documenting bird nesting effort by species on this island since 2009. Nesting birds observed include the great blue heron, little blue heron, snowy egret, great egret, reddish egret, yellow-crowned night heron, black-crowned night heron, and double-crested cormorant.
Mangroves on the shore

Quadrat at a seagrass survey site

Seagrass Monitoring

Seagrass is a submerged habitat that serves as an indicator of estuary health. Seagrass health depends on good water clarity and quality. Changes in water quality, hydrology and salinity directly affect seagrass distribution, abundance and diversity. To characterize seagrass conditions, annual monitoring was established in 1998 at 50 sites throughout the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves, including four 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 and by aquatic preserve. The results are presented regularly at scientific conferences and has been published in Florida Scientist. Overall, seagrasses appear to be relatively healthy and stable throughout the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves, although there had been estuary specific declines in some years that were associated with natural events like hurricanes, and stronger than average rainy seasons. Healthy, dense seagrass beds in Cape Haze Aquatic Preserve support fisheries.

Quick Facts about Cape Haze Aquatic Preserve
Map of Cape Haze Aquatic Preserve

Aerial view of Cape Haze
Aerial view of Cape Haze

Stilt house over water

Old Fish House

Clams from commercial harvest
Clams from commercial aquaculture harvest

Osprey with catch
Osprey with catch


Charlotte County


12,716 acres of sovereign submerged lands


Mindy Brown
Aquatic Preserve Manager
12301 Burnt Store Road
Punta Gorda, FL 33955
(941) 575-5861

Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves Management Plan (pdf - 42.9 MB)

  • Cape Haze Aquatic Preserve is east of Boca Grande, surrounded by Gasparilla Sound - Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve and Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park.
  • This aquatic preserve is a maze of islands and shallow passages, where Catfish and Whidden Creeks meet Charlotte Harbor to mix with water from the Gulf of Mexico.
  • An intricate network of mangrove forests and seagrass meadows provides rich habitats for all life stages of shellfish, crustaceans and fishes, including more than 100 invertebrate species and 200 fish species. The quiet islands serve as important bird rookeries.
  • Kayaking, birding, and fishing are recreational activities compatible with these shallow waters.
  • Clam aquaculture and crabbing are local commercial enterprises.
  • More than 70% of commercially important fish and shellfish species rely on estuaries at some stage of their lives.

Last updated: March 14, 2017

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