More Than 100 Nature Coast Businesses Declare Support for Florida Aquatic Preserve

Lawmakers weigh bill to protect coastal area that’s vital to seafood and tourism industries

More Than 100 Nature Coast Businesses Declare Support for Florida Aquatic Preserve
Gator MacRae
Gator MacRae scoops brown shrimp at his marina and motel in Homosassa, Florida. The shrimp, which MacRae sells as bait, were caught along Florida’s Nature Coast, where clean water and a healthy coastal habitat are vital to businesses, communities, and wildlife.
Charlie Shoemaker/The Pew Charitable Trusts

This letter was revised on March 3, 2020, and again on June 30, 2020, to update the list of businesses that support the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve.

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.

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Romona Robbins

Florida Plays Host to Abundant Seagrass

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Along Florida’s west coast, seagrass meadows bolster economic activity by nurturing commercially important fish, stone crabs, and shrimp and drawing tourists from around the world for manatee watching, scalloping, fishing, snorkeling, and paddle sports.

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Conserving Marine Life in the United States: Gulf Coast

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Conserving Marine Life in the United States: Gulf Coast

The Gulf of Mexico is an environmental and economic powerhouse. Its 600,000 square miles are home to some of the nation’s most productive fishing grounds and oyster beds as well as deep-sea corals and the country’s largest continuous seagrass beds.