Jan. 12, 2015
MIAMI – Biscayne Bay was recently selected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as one of two sites in the southeast and Caribbean to be considered Habitat Focus Areas — places where the agency can maximize its habitat conservation investments and management efforts to benefit marine resources and coastal communities. The second site chosen was Puerto Rico’s Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island.
Under NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint, which provides a framework for NOAA to effectively improve habitats for fisheries, marine life and coastal communities, Habitat Focus Areas are selected to prioritize long-term science and conservation efforts. As a Habitat Focus Area, NOAA and partners will provide conservation planning and development of a watershed management plan.
“NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint illustrates our commitment to building resilient communities and natural resources by improving habitat conditions for fisheries and marine life while also providing economic and environmental benefits,” said Bonnie Ponwith, director of NOAA Fisheries’ Southeast Fisheries Science Center. “This effort will promote the exchange of ideas and transfer of best management practices between the two sites. NOAA is eager to bring the whole team to the table with our partners to focus on these areas and achieve benefits for these communities and natural resources.”
Biscayne Bay is a shallow, subtropical ecosystem with extensive seagrass cover and a mangrove fringe along most of its shoreline. The bay contains more than 145,000 acres of habitat that is essential to commercially important species, such as grouper and snapper in their early life stages. The bay supports many living marine resources including protected species, such as green and loggerhead sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins, and several threatened coral species. The bay’s ecosystem strongly contributes to the economy of the surrounding area.
“The DEP’s Florida Coastal Office is grateful and enthusiastic about the selection of Biscayne Bay as a new Habitat Focus Area for NOAA,” said Kevin Claridge, director of the Florida Coastal Office. “The Habitat Blueprint initiative will lead to increased partnerships and coordination to protect Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserves for both present and future generations.”
As a Habitat Protection Area, NOAA scientists will work to better understand the water quality issues in Biscayne Bay, as well as restore, improve and protect fishery habitats. In addition, NOAA will work to restore and maintain sustainable fish stocks, reduce marine debris impacts and improve shoreline protection.
For more information about the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserves, click here.
For more information about NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint Focus Areas, click here.