Strong conservation is often good for business, especially in regions where the economy relies on thriving natural ecosystems. That’s why more than 100 Florida businesses have signed a letter (below) supporting creation of the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve in Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus counties along the state’s Gulf of Mexico coast. The preserve would protect the Gulf’s biggest seagrass bed—a place where fishing, scalloping, and recreational activities form the backbone of coastal economies.
Seagrass, which grows underwater, provides food, homes, and nursery areas for a vast array of marine animals. Along Florida’s three-county Nature Coast, this means a healthy ecosystem that supports a variety of businesses and activities, from summertime scalloping, world-class sport fishing, and internationally renowned manatee-watching to harvesting stone crab and shrimp. All told, seagrass-dependent activities in the region generate more than $600 million annually for the economy, provide more than 10,000 jobs, and support about 500 businesses.
If approved, this would be the 42nd aquatic preserve in a system designed to maintain water quality and biological value while allowing traditional activities such as boating, fishing, and swimming. State Representative Ralph Massullo and Senator Ben Albritton are sponsoring companion bills—H.B. 1061 and S.B. 1042—to create the preserve, which would cover more than 400,000 acres of seagrass, salt marsh, and mangroves.
Holly Binns directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ work to conserve marine life in the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Caribbean.