The Florida Coastal Office coordinates the protection of the state’s natural, cultural and economic coastal resources. DEP manages more than 4 million acres of submerged lands and coastal uplands. With support from NOAA, the Florida Coastal Office manages the Florida Coastal Management Program, 41 aquatic preserves, three National Estuarine Research Reserves, the Florida Coral Reef Conservation Program, and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Much of Florida's distinctive character lies in the beauty of its coastline. The best of our coastal landscapes have been set aside for protection as aquatic preserves. This natural beauty has always been one of Florida's major attractions for both tourists and residents. Ironically, the very features that have drawn people to Florida are potentially endangered by the increased population pressures. Aquatic preserves protect the living waters of Florida to ensure that they will always be home for bird rookeries and fish nurseries, freshwater springs and salt marshes, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests. These natural wonders offer a window into Florida's natural and cultural heritage. In 1975, with growing appreciation for their environmental diversity and alluring beauty, Florida enacted the Aquatic Preserve Act. This ensured that aquatic preserves' natural condition, "their aesthetic, biological, and scientific values may endure for the enjoyment of future generations." Today, Florida is fortunate to have 41 aquatic preserves, encompassing approximately 2.2 million acres. All but four of these "submerged lands of exceptional beauty" are located along Florida's 8,400 miles of coastline in the shallow waters of marshes and estuaries. These waters are ours to enjoy and ours to protect. To learn more about the Florida Coastal Office and Florida’s Aquatic Preserves Program visit https://floridadep.gov/FCO