September 25th, 2010 has been designated National Estuaries Day and International Coastal Clean Up and many communities both locally and internationally will be scheduling celebration activities.In a state like Florida, we have so many reasons to celebrate. Our coasts and estuaries are critical elements in our quest for sustainability and offer economic, environmental and social benefits.
Economically – our coasts and estuaries are major drivers of our tourist-based economy. Florida’s coastal zone is defined as the entire state and with 67 counties, 35 of which are directly on the coast, the direct and indirect economic effects results in significant earnings potential. The National Ocean Economics Program estimates gross wages earned in Florida’s coastal economy for 2007 at $3 billion while the coastal zone in the United States contributed $6.7 trillion to the national economy in 2007.Environmentally – our coasts and estuaries are environmentally sensitive and in recognition of this, Florida has estuaries designated through the EPA National Estuary Program and the NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERR). Our estuaries provide tremendous environmental benefits that include natural buffering abilities and nursery grounds for our fisheries while our oceans contribute to our trade and commerce activities as well as our ecological integrity.
The National Estuary Program (NEP) recognizes Charlotte Harbor, Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay and Indian River Lagoon as participating estuary partners in the State of Florida. With the exception of Indian River Lagoon, the other NEPs are located on the Gulf coast of Florida.
With an 8400+ mile shoreline that is exceeded only by the state of Alaska (33,904), Florida is the only other state outside of California that has three National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRs). The NERRs are well distributed across Florida and emphasizes the unique ecosystems that are unparalleled elsewhere in our nation. The Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas NERR is located in St. Johns and Flagler counties, the Apalachicola NERR is located in Franklin County and the Rookery Bay NERR is located in Collier County.
Florida is the only state in the nation to have 7 estuaries designated by 2 different federal agencies!
Socially – our coasts and estuaries contribute significantly to our recreational pursuits. Our boating, fishing, swimming and picnicking adventures revolve around the beautiful waters of our state. Many families pass down a traditional recipe for low country boil or a favorite fishing memory on one of our famous water bodies.
This September, show your support for our beautiful waters and join a clean-up group in your community. For coastal clean-ups in Florida, contact your local site captains. For estuary clean-ups in Florida, visit the web sites of your nearest estuary. Your local parks may also be coordinating clean-up events, so be sure to ask your local park ranger.
Make a difference – start a sea change!