Florida's Gulf Coast

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Florida’s barrier islands, estuaries, beaches, seagrass meadows, wetlands and mangrove forests are world-renowned natural resources and attractions. The productive areas along the coast are major ecological drivers for the entire Gulf region providing food, shelter, and important nurseries for a wide range of fish and other marine life.

Why Should You Care?

If you hunt or fish, this sportsman playground should matter to you:

  • Florida is known as the Fishing Capital of the World, has nearly five million saltwater anglers and leads all states in economic return for its marine recreational fisheries.
  • Florida is also renowned for its freshwater and bass fishing, with million acres of lakes, ponds and reservoirs, and approximately 12,000 miles of fishable rivers, streams and canals-with no closed seasons.
  • The commercial fishery is the second-largest of all states and ranks third for jobs supported by the industry.
  • The annual impact of Florida’s fish and wildlife is substantial:
    — $1.6 billion and almost 15,000 jobs from hunting
    — $1.7 billion and 14,000 jobs from freshwater fishing
    — $7.6 billion and almost 110,000 jobs from saltwater fishing
    — $4.9 billion and almost 45,000 jobs from wildlife watching
    — $10.4 billion and 82,000 jobs from boating

Clearly, ecosystem restoration benefits Florida sportsmen AND the economy.

Priority Projects for Florida

Habitat restoration projects should emphasize:
• Restore estuaries
• Better manage water flows
• Address stormwater and sedimentation
• Improve water quality

The environmental restoration projects identified below prioritize these challenges to restore, protect, and promote the ecologic and economic health of the Florida Coast. View the full explanation of these projects in NWF’s latest report.

C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir Project

The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, approved by Congress in 2002, calls for a reservoir adjacent to the Caloosahatchee River. Under current practice, the Caloosahatchee estuary suffers as fresh water is held back to meet water-supply needs during times of drought. The project is critical to restoring the estuaries of southwest Florida, including Charlotte Harbor National Estuary, an important contributor to the sustainability of Gulf of Mexico fisheries.

Robinson Preserve Restoration Phase II, Manatee County

The 637-acre conservation area is position at the junction of two estuaries of national significance: Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay. In recent years, nearly 487 acres were transformed from disturbed farmland to high-quality coastal habitats. The next phases would add 150 acres and restore the land to a more natural state, opening it to the public for passive recreation.

Apalachicola River and Bay Restoration Plan

The Apalachicola River and Bay system is an area of exceptional ecological importance. The river supports most diverse assemblage of freshwater fish in Florida. The bay supports a wide variety of recreationally and commercially important fish species and also 90 percent of Florida’s oyster fisheries. Despites is value, the habitat has been severely degraded over time.

Pensacola Bay Living Shorelines and Oyster Reef Restoration

The project will create eight miles of living shorelines in the East Bay area of Pensacola Bay. Living shoreline projects apply natural principles and construction elements that create habitat and provide other services important to the function of estuaries, including habitat for economically important fishes. It will also include the development of oyster reef habitat, providing nursery habitat for finfish and shellfish.

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

The refuge spans more than 43 miles of coastline and supports Gulf sturgeon and Gulf striped bass in addition to other fish and wildlife. The project will provide habitat conservation and enhanced water quality.

St. Andrew Bay – West Bay Preservation Area

St. Andrew Bay is one of the most diverse estuaries in North American, supporting more than 3,600 species in its watershed. It includes federally designated critical habitat for the Gulf sturgeon. The project restore additional 4,494 acres that will greatly contribute to long-term health and resiliency of the area’s diverse fish and wildlife.

Suwanee River/Caber Coastal Connector

Florida has the longest protected natural coastline in the continental U.S., but a critical missing link is the Caber track. Conservation of the Caber Coastal Connector will establish an almost unbroken chain of coastal conversation lands from Gulf County to Hernando County. It will help maintain the quality and quantity of water flowing to the estuaries, which will benefit all marine species and the saltwater fishery.

These restoration priorities will ensure a healthy legacy for Florida’s coastal lands and waters, while ensuring its seafood and tourism based-economy continues to flourish.

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Take Action

Letter to Congress to Restore the Everglades – Please sign on your business or sportsmen organization to the letter asking Congress to take action to restore the Everglades. The Everglades is at a tipping point. It is unimaginable that we could lose these wondrous fisheries.

Related Information

- Pensacola NewsJournal – Army Corps earmarks $1 million for Deadman’s Island
- Anglers for Conservation – Florida Needs a Plan for Gulf Restoration: Ask Gov. Scott to Keep his Promise

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