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Gasparilla Sound - Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve Project Spotlight

"As the only deep water harbor between Tampa and Key West, greater Charlotte Harbor is blessed with a rich abundance and diversity of marine life and requires our constant and continued efforts to ensure the future health of its waters."

Anna Bowditch, Honorary Member
Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program Advisory Committee

Mangrove snappers

Key Accomplishments

  • After Hurricane Charley, staff worked in close cooperation with public and private agencies to survey the waterways and support the year-long debris removal efforts. Water quality and seagrasses improved rapidly after the storm.
  • Annual seagrass monitoring at 20 different sites in the harbor examines types, density, distribution and other parameters. Results indicate that seagrasses vary significantly throughout the region but generally appear healthy and diverse.
  • Monthly water quality monitoring by more than 20 citizen volunteers indicates that water clarity is good with high natural color from mangrove tannins but there are spikes in turbidity, bacteria and nutrients associated with rainwater runoff.

Water quality testing

Water Quality Monitoring

Long term health of the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves depends on maintaining good water quality to support diverse submerged habitats. In 2001, the Coastal Charlotte Harbor Monitoring Network was established through a partnership of agencies and staff. Each month, 13 hydrologic regions are sampled for 19 key parameters. The data is examined to determine changes over time, relationships between parameters and effects on seagrass habitats. Water quality conditions in Gasparilla Sound and Charlotte Harbor show good to average conditions, with very high nutrient and color levels associated with summer rain events. A summary of the findings was presented at the 2005 Charlotte Harbor Watershed Summit and will be published in the journal, Florida Scientist.

Quick Facts about Gasparilla Sound - Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve
Map of Gasparilla Sound - Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve


Charlotte and Lee counties


80,000 acres of sovereign submerged lands


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

Download a printable version of this page.

Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves Management Plan (pdf - 77.0 MB)

Star fish


Turtle grass

Turtle grass

Goliath grouper

Goliath grouper

Sailing at dusk

Returning home from a day of sailing in Charlotte Harbor

  • This is the second largest estuary in Florida and the largest, deepest and most diverse of the five Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves.
  • Fresh water from the Peace and Myakka Rivers mixes with salt water coming through Boca Grande Pass from the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Shallow, near-shore shoals sustain an abundance of seagrasses, oysters and mudflats. This variety of habitats support more than 100 invertebrate species, 200 fish species and 150 shore and wading birds species.
  • Fishing is popular among seagrass shallows, mangrove fringes and artificial reefs. Major tarpon and goliath grouper populations are found near Boca Grande Pass.
  • The harbor supports recreational boating along with commercial clam aquaculture and shrimping.

Last updated: October 25, 2016

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