Ocean to Everglades

A project by Ocean Conservancy with financial support from VoLo Foundation

Florida Bay Saving Paradise

Welcome to Florida Bay…

© Mac Stone © Mac Stone

At the very southern edge of Florida, the Everglades empties into this spectacular natural playground and the surrounding Florida Keys.

In the right conditions, mangrove forests can be among the most productive environments in the world. They are a bountiful nursery ground for fish, crabs, and shrimp.

Coral reef tourism – diving, fishing and viewing – supports 70,000 jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity in Florida.

Immense seagrass beds provide food for manatees and sea turtles, nursery habitat for fish and shrimp and rich feeding grounds for wading birds.

© Issac Mead Long © Issac Mead Long

Florida Bay is extremely shallow, averaging less than three feet deep. In the bay you could be many miles from shore, but the water might not even be waist-deep.

© Kyle Soto © Kyle Soto

The bay is world-renowned as a fisherman’s dream. Anglers search the bay’s waters for redfish, snook, tarpon and bonefish.

Listen to Florida fisherman Benny Blanco describe the beauty of Florida Bay and the need to protect it…

© Mac Stone © Mac Stone

Not all is well, though, with this natural paradise.

As the health of the Everglades has declined, so has the health of Florida Bay and the Florida coral reef tract.

Cores from historic corals in Florida Bay – which, like tree rings can tell us what the environment was like years, decades and even centuries ago – tell an alarming story.

In one study, coral cores showed a dramatic and sustained decrease in fresh water flows into Florida Bay starting in 1912. Back then, canals were being built on land over one hundred miles to the north.

The construction of the canals had a direct impact on the growth of corals living in Florida Bay.

© Benj Drummond © Benj Drummond

Areas where corals used to cover 50 percent of the seafloor now have less than 6 percent coral cover today. Nutrient pollution, reduced freshwater flows, Stony Coral Tissue Loss disease, ocean acidification and warming waters from climate change have all played a role in this reduction.

Dr. Rivah Winter, a coral scientist who runs the Frost Science Museum’s coral lab in Miami, explains how what happens on land matters for Florida’s ocean…

But Florida Bay’s future is worth fighting for.

An army of passionate Floridians from all walks of life refuse to accept a Florida Bay and reef tract that’s in decline. They are fighting to restore the Everglades and save the place they love.

I want to see this bay healthy again. I want to see freshwater flow. I want to see fish. I want to see an industry that’s revolving around it…And if we can get there, then we’ll see a healthy state, a state that can combat sea level rise and climate change.

Benny Blanco, Florida Fishing Captain

There are now so many pairs of eyes looking at the problem from all different kinds of angles that I am confident that we’re going to be coming up with some important solutions that can really give these reefs a fighting chance.

Dr. Rivah Winter, coral scientist at the Frost Science Museum

© Mac Stone © Mac Stone

A declining Florida Bay reflects all of the damage we’ve done to the Everglades in decades past. But as we work to restore the Everglades, Florida Bay will be a beneficiary of that recovery.

© Mac Stone © Mac Stone

Florida Bay is worth saving.

But to do so we must act.

Ocean to Everglades Support for this project was provided by the following organizations.

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