CITRUS COUNTY, Fla. — It’s official. With Gov. Ron DeSantis signing House Bill 1061, Florida has a new aquatic preserve that spans about 800 square miles along the Gulf Coast, its first new aquatic preserve in over 30 years.

What You Need To Know

  • House Bill 1061 creates the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve

  • Preserve will establish protections for around 400,000 acres of aquatic habitat

  • Preserve stretches from Pinellas County to Big Bend

  • Learn more about the protections to the area's sea life going forward HERE

“What the bill is targeted at is to create a good water quality that is going to sustain the ecosystem that is in the gulf for generations to come,” said area fisherman Mike Desabrais.

Officially, the bill creates the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve, which will protect approximately 400,000 acres of aquatic habitat stretching from Pinellas County to Big Bend, covering Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus Counties.

“It is the 42nd system that it essentially designed to maintain these areas and natural conditions while still allowing for public access for things like boating, fishing and scalloping,” said Holly Binns, who directs efforts by national nonprofit PEW Charitable Trusts to protect ocean life. Binns said her organization has been working on this project for quite some time

“After sort of a year of conversations and what kind of protections would truly help preserve this area for generations to come, this proposal came together probably in August and it moved quickly from there,” she explained.

One of the main beneficieraries of the bill, according to Binns, will be the region's seagrass. 

“Seagrass is a really important coastal habitat," she said. "It is the nurturing for probably 70 percent of the fish that fishermen like to target.”

For his part, Desabrais said he’s quite excited about the change. 

“Those benefits are far reaching and will allow generations of our children to have a good environment in the gulf that they can access and enjoy for their entire lives,” he said.

Learn more about the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve here.