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By: Angela Caraway-Carlton

One of Greater Miami & Miami Beach’s greatest treasures is Biscayne Bay. Its calm, clear waters teem with rich and diverse marine life and are beloved by locals and visitors alike. It’s the heart of Miami, and many people escape to the bay daily to boat, kayak, standup paddle board, swim, fish or just gaze at the water. Those who have the good fortune to live along Biscayne Bay get to wake up to those unmatched views of sparkling blue waters where dolphins and manatees play.

But it’s important to know that human behavior on land and on the water could ultimately trash our treasure. The bay’s water quality is everything, and carelessness and wrong decisions, especially over time, can cause seagrass die-offs and fish kills.

“Biscayne Bay provides Miami residents and visitors with tremendous environmental benefits and exceptional beauty. It is one of the main reasons so many are drawn to Miami to live, work, play and visit,” says Seth Bloomgarden, chair of the Surfrider Foundation Miami Chapter, whose mission is to protect our coastal environment. “The health of Biscayne Bay is directly linked to the economic and environmental well-being of our tropical paradise.”

Whether you live here in Greater Miami & Miami Beach or you’re visiting, there are some simple steps you can take to protect Biscayne Bay for everyone’s future enjoyment.

Museum Park
Leave everything the way you found it

Practice Protection: Don’t Trash the Bay

To protect this unique aquatic treasure, we must be responsible with our trash on land and on the water. “Do not dump anything into the bay – ever,” says Bloomgarden.

Don’t put anything down the storm drains, as many of them lead directly into the bay. “Don’t pour paints, chemicals or oils down the drain or onto the ground, in order to reduce pollution entering Biscayne Bay,” says Samantha Morejon of Miami Waterkeeper, an organization that advocates for Greater Miami & Miami Beach’s watershed and wildlife.

To minimize surface water pollution, reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides and fertilizer near waterways, especially during the rainy season.

Don’t bring Styrofoam of any type to the bay, beach or coastline. When it’s time to leave, take all of your beach items and debris with you, especially during sea turtle nesting season (March through October).

Leave everything the way you found it, from plant life and mangroves to the bay’s seagrass beds and coral reefs.

Sea Turtle
Protect the wildlife

Watch Wildlife (at a Respectful Distance)

Protecting marine life should always be top of mind. “Don’t feed, touch or approach any wildlife that's in the water or on the beach,” says Morejon. She also stresses the importance of reporting any wildlife injuries or harmful activities to appropriate agencies or Miami Waterkeeper.

Never dispose of monofilament fishing line in the water, as it can entangle and harm marine life.

While balloons are popular decorations for birthday parties and other celebrations, keep in mind that balloon releases (even accidental ones) can have detrimental effects on marine animals, which often mistake balloons for food.

Fishing Boat
Preserve the waterways

Boating Dos and Don’ts

Boating is an essential part of our lifestyle in Miami, so it’s important to preserve our waterways.

Abiding by manatee zones and other speed limit signs can help boaters avoid hitting marine life such as manatees and dolphins, as well as damaging the bay bottom.

Make sure personal items and trash are secured on the boat so they don’t fly off and land in the water.

When repairing your boat, remove the vessel from the water. If you see fuel coming from your boat, address the leak immediately before it can leak into the bay. “Also, have containment structures to eliminate direct runoff into waterways, especially when working with oils, grease, and wash water from boat maintenance,” advises Bloomgarden.

And if you see something amiss on the water, say something. Report leaks and spills, bulky debris, fishing gear and abandoned vessels in the bay immediately to local authorities.

Boca Chita Lighthouse
Be an eco-activist

Personal Choices Add Up

We can all be eco-activists and make a positive impact on the waterways we love. In fact, there are simple things each of us can do that collectively could have a significant positive impact on the health of Biscayne Bay.

First, avoid single-use plastics (and recycle what you do use). Pack food and drinks in reusable containers. “Minimize your use of single-use plastic and other trash, so it doesn’t end up in our waters,” suggests Bloomgarden.

Even what you put on your body can affect the delicate ecosystem. Swap out regular sunscreen for reef-safe sunscreen, which is better for you and the coral.

Donating your money and time can also make a big impact. Volunteer for area beach cleanups and with organizations such as Surfrider, or create your own informal cleanup with family and friends. On any ordinary beach or boating day, you can make a difference by looking around you and picking up any trash you may see.

Locals can also drive home the message of preservation by purchasing a “Protect Biscayne Bay” specialty license plate. Revenue from the sales of the license plates go to The Miami Foundation to promote awareness and fund education and conservation efforts for Biscayne Bay.

If we nurture the bay now, it will remain a gem that everyone can enjoy for years to come.