Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection


Welcome to Tampa Bay. This major
metropolitan area in Florida’s west coast is home to four aquatic preserves –
Pinellas County, Boca Ciega Bay, Cockroach Bay and Terra Ceia – protecting nearly
400,000 acres of submerged lands. The natural beauty of the aquatic preserves
is a sharp contrast to the heavily urbanized area. Vast expanses of open
water, seagrass beds, hard bottom with corals, and Islands are some of the
natural communities found in the preserves. Boca Ciega Bay was the first
legislatively designated site in 1968. Above and below the water’s surface,
Department of Environmental Protection staff work daily to monitor these
natural communities. The hard bottom structure of Terra Ceia Bay is home to
several species of corals so DEP staff, with the help of visiting students,
monitor the benthic, or bottom, communities. Staff partnered with
volunteers and students to remove invasive and exotic vegetation found on
islands. These islands serve as conservation areas, bird rookeries, and
as recreational stopovers for boaters. The diverse ecosystems of Tampa Bay
aquatic preserves include swamp areas nestled next to residential communities,
so DEP staff routinely monitor these upland areas before water makes it into
the estuarine systems. The waters of Tampa Bay attract locals and tourists alike
for their numerous recreational activities in and out of the water.
Cockroach Bay is especially popular among paddlers who weave in and out of
the mangrove tunnels. Boating, swimming and nature observation are some of the
top recreational activities in Boca Ciega Bay and Pinellas County aquatic
preserves. Snorkeling the waters of Terra Ceia Bay gives visitors a deeper look
at the complex web of life thriving in the seagrass beds. Visitors from all over
come to fish the world-renowned waters of Tampa Bay. Come and appreciate the
protected waters of Tampa Bay for yourself. Visit Tampa Bay Aquatic
Preserves today. For more information visit Florida DEP gov /ap.

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