In a move backed by conservation groups as well as the recreational boating and fishing community and the local community, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 1061 — the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve — into law.
State lawmakers approved a pair of bills to create an aquatic preserve back in March.
The preserve spans approximately 800 square miles of Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties and will protect about 400,000 acres of vital seagrass beds.
The bill received significant support, including a save our seagrass coalition led by the International Game Fish Association that gathered recreational angling and manufacturing groups including the National Marine Manufacturers Association, Captains for Clean Water, Wild Oceans and several others.
“Establishing the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve is an important step to address water quality and habitat conservation for some of Florida’s most iconic fisheries,” said Kellie Ralston, southeast fisheries policy director for the American Sportfishing Association in a statement. “Sport fishing in the state supports more than 106,000 jobs and has an economic impact of $11.5 billion.”
The local community also came out strongly to support the bill. In March, more than 100 business in the tri-county area signed a letter in favor of the preserve.
Similar to the other aquatic preserves in the state, recreational activity — boating, fishing and scalloping — would still be permitted within its borders.