Aquatic Preserve Program

The Aquatic Preserve Program is managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Office of Coastal and Managed Areas (CAMA), the mission of which is to protect Florida’s coastal and aquatic resources.


  • Manage the lands and waters in our care to ensure the protection of resources
  • Encourage sustainable use of public lands and waters
  • Instill a sense of stewardship in people for their natural resources
  • Promote “leave no trace” use of public lands
  • Focus efforts within and beyond our boundaries to address priority threats to the ecosystem
  • Seek partnerships and promote volunteerism to achieve our goals
  • Make decisions based on the best available science and information
  • Seek consensus and engage our communities to resolve issues
  • Treat all people with civility and respect
  • Maintain the highest level of integrity


  • Resource Management
  • Education, Training and Outreach
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Facilitation of Scientific Research
  • Partnerships
  • Volunteers

Mission And Goals

The mission of the Aquatic Preserve Program is to protect and maintain the natural conditions of aquatic preserves for future generations.

Established by state statute, the Aquatic Preserves are submerged lands of exceptional beauty which are to be maintained in such a way that "their aesthetic, biological, and scientific values may endure for the enjoyment of future generations."  The first aquatic preserve was established in Estero Bay in 1966. In 1975 the Florida Aquatic Preserve Act was passed and the existing preserves were brought under a standard set of management criteria.

Today, Florida is fortunate to have 41 aquatic preserves, encompassing more than two 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. Florida’s Aquatic Preserves Program plays an important role in maintaining good water quality, diversity of wildlife through valuable estuarine nursery areas, and an enhanced quality of life for millions of residents and visitors. These waters are ours to enjoy and ours to protect. 

Long-Term Goals:

  • Protect and enhance the ecological integrity of the aquatic preserves
  • Restore areas to their natural condition
  • Encourage sustainable use and foster active stewardship by engaging local communities in the protection of aquatic preserves
  • Improve management effectiveness through a process based on sound science, consistent evaluation, and continual reassessment

There are six local aquatic preserves: Lemon Bay, Gasparilla Sound-Charlotte Harbor, Cape Haze, Pine Island Sound, Matlacha Pass and Estero Bay. The local aquatic preserve offices are:  the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves (CHAP), located in Punta Gorda; and the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve (EBAP), located in Fort Myers Beach.

For more information about Aquatic Preserves, please contact Heather Stafford at, or by phone at (941)575-5861 (CHAP) or (239)463-3240 (EBAP).