Florida’s Fight for a Healthy Biscayne Bay

Mia Shields, Design Editor

Biscayne Bay is home to Florida’s largest estuary connected to its coral reef and a bay that serves as an important economic factor for the region, containing the world’s largest passenger port and sailing destination. Without the reef, Florida’s tourism revenue would significantly change.

“People from all over the planet come to dive on Florida’s barrier reef. And as our reef dies off, less and less people are going to have the incentive to actually come dive here and they’d go to other places in the Caribbean…,” Miami Palmetto Senior High Marine Biology Teacher Nicolas Quintarios said.

Both the bay and reef support over $20 billion of fish habitats and recreational activities annually, along with its biggest benefit: storm protection. 

“The coral reef itself breaks a lot of the energy offshore from the storms. They break the wave energy so the Bay is a little bit calmer than it would be outside the reef,” Quintarios said. 

As a result of the bay’s critical importance, Governor Ron DeSantis has recently allocated several awards to Biscayne Bay to protect water quality and its overall environment.

This story is sponsored by Clarin Eye Care.

“…A lot of times the sewer pipes would break and leak into the adjacent waters and caused fecal coliform to be at such high levels that they were not detectable…. We also need to [deal] with our storm water runoff that have all the litter and plastics accumulating in our streets and put into our stormwater and then straight into the ocean, causing a whole chain of problems,” Quintarios said. 

Considering these threats, with a total of $22.7 million, the awards target areas such as pollution reduction, sewer sanitation and wetland restoration.

Last year, DeSantis signed House Bill 1177, establishing the Biscayne Bay Commission in an effort to protect the integrity of the bay and ensure the prioritization of projects with great impact. The bill will build upon recent years’ successes in water quality and strengthen sustainable resources for future generations. 

The commission will secure a financial plan to guarantee proper prioritization of funds, enforcing the protection of Biscayne Bay’s ecosystem. Additionally, it will present forums to serve as a provider of public information on all projects and plans. 

Despite being an established national park and state aquatic reserve in efforts to maintain and protect the land, the environment cannot avoid its stressors. The rise of sea level, poor quality of water, habitat loss, and other activities negatively affect the area’s well-being. However, with DeSantis’s newly signed legislation and $20 million in funding that targets these very issues, it is hoped these efforts will effectively help restore the bay.