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Significance of St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve Quick Topics


The Florida Panhandle is one of the nation's six biological hotspots that has many rare species only found in small areas.


The Gulf of Mexico is ranked as the number one region in the nation for seafood harvest in poundage and in monetary value. In 2002, the commercial fish landings of the northern Gulf region totaled over 1.7 billion pounds accounting for nearly $705 million in revenues.

Commercial catch of seafood

Habitat and Species

St. Joseph Bay is not influenced by the inflow of freshwater, and tends to be clearer with sandier sediments. The bay is an ideal habitat for seagrass. Productivity in the region can be attributed to the saltmarsh and seagrasses that serve as nursery and foraging grounds for commercial and recreational fish and invertebrates, sea turtles, scallops and birds.

Class II Waterbody

St. Joseph Bay is classified as a Class II Waterbody in Rule 62-302.400 of the Florida Administrative Code. Class II waters are those coastal waters where shellfish harvesting occurs. Class II waters are more stringent concerning bacteriological quality than any other class because uncooked shellfish can concentrate pathogens in quantities significantly higher than the surrounding waters.

Outstanding Florida Waters

St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve is an Outstanding Florida Water (OFW). OFWs are designated due to their high quality, recreational or ecological significance, or their location within state or federally owned lands. This designation is intended to preserve the ambient water quality and does not allow any degradation.


St. Joseph Bay is designated as a Gulf of Mexico Ecological Management Site . GEMS are geographic areas that have special ecological significance to the continued protection of fish, wildlife, and other natural resources or that represent unique habitat. The GEMS program is an initiative of the EPA Gulf of Mexico Program to provide a framework for protection of ecologically important Gulf habitats.









Last updated: April 06, 2015

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