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Living Waters: Aquatic Preserves of Florida Quick Topics

St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve Segment - Transcript

We begin our photographic expedition in St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve, located along Florida's panhandle, near the town of Port St. Joe. St. Joseph Bay is the only sizeable inlet in the Gulf of Mexico that is not influenced by a flow of fresh water. Spanning approximately 73,000 acres, the aquatic preserve is the most productive commercial and recreational fishing spot in the region.

Lifelong resident of Port St. Joe, Tom Parker recalls some of his childhood experiences in the bay.

Tom Parker:
When I was 7 or 8 years old, I started swimming in the bay down 'round the old city pier. I spent a lot of my early life in the bay. I would walk around the old city pier down there and pick up scallops and eat scallops raw. This place has become the scallop capital of Florida almost that year in the bay. You know, many, many people had come over from Panama City, Blountstown, Alabama, even Georgia and they scallop out in the bay during the season.

We owe it to future generations to watch out for this old bay, to keep as pristine, as nice as we can. Don't run outboard motors through the grass flats out there and just dig trenches through the grass which look terrible, you know, which kill a lot of the habitat for the small little sea things. It's so important for us to take care of all that so that we'll have enough for future generations. We'll certainly be able to enjoy it ourselves as long as we're here.

Salt marshes and seagrasses play an important role in the natural balance of St. Joseph Bay. Salt marshes are a nursery for a variety of invertebrates and provide homes to a large number of birds, reptiles and mammals. The marshes also protect against salt water intrusion and coastal erosion. Seagrass beds filter nutrients, stabilize sediments, buffer the coast against wave surges during storms and shelter juvenile fish and the small marine animals that serve as the foundation for the food chain in the Gulf of Mexico. St. Joseph Bay is also an important stopover for migratory birds from the Atlantic seaboard.

St. Joseph Bay Dunes

St. Joseph Bay Dunes #3
Photo: Clyde Butcher

Third generation commercial fisherman Danny Raffield talks about the importance of the St. Joseph Aquatic Preserve now and for the future.

Danny Raffield:
We know that it's unique in the fact that it is a place for fish to take up a part of their migration, offers a time for juvenile fish of some species a place to begin their cycle up in the shallows. It is a food source for migrating masses of fish that are going from their spring and fall migration. They come in the bay, they eat and leave - back and forth. We know that it is part of a link that adds to the overall health of the fisheries. It helps to substantuate the yield to populate for recreational and commercial harvesting. It contributes to that and helps us to have a sustainable resource here so it's ever-giving. We protect it, it will continue to give on and on, just like it has in the past.

Protecting the water and land around the natural treasure ensures it will be here for generations to come.

Tom Parker:
Well, I think every person should take a serious sense of protecting the bay as far as not littering around it or anything or dumping anything out of your boat. I just think you love something, you ought to take care of it.










Last updated: December 06, 2016

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