Florida Governor Signs Bill Designating Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve
On June 29th, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation (HB 1061), creating the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve (AP) in Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco counties following an outpouring of support from local businesses, county commissioners, conservation groups, and recreational and marine industry organizations.
The IGFA was instrumental in gaining support for the new AP by assembling a coalition of leading recreational, conservation and marine manufacturing organizations. The new AP fills the gap between existing APs to the north and south, and protects over 400,000 acres of prime seagrass habitat in the Gulf of Mexico.
Seventy percent of Florida’s renowned sport fish, such as gag grouper, spotted seatrout, snook, redfish, tarpon, and gray snapper spend at least part of their life cycle within seagrass habitat. So too do valuable stone crab, bay scallop, and forage species like pinfish and shrimp. These in turn support valuable recreational fisheries, bait production, tackle shops, marinas, boat builders, and fishing-related tourism that contribute to the more than $600,000,000 generated annually by the Nature Coast region’s ocean-related economy (NOAA).
Aquatic preserves in Florida safeguard water quality, habitat, recreation and cultural heritage. APs also receive an Outstanding Florida Water Designation, which is the highest level of state protection with the goal of maintaining good water quality which is essential to healthy ecosystems and marine communities. Most importantly, it supports traditional public use such as recreational and commercial fishing, boating and swimming. The new AP in Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco counties is the first in over 30 years and represents the 42nd in the Florida state system, a major step forward in conserving Florida’s status as The Fishing Capital of the World into the future. The IGFA would like to that all of our partners who made this new AP come to fruition.