Healthy, resilient bays and estuarine habitats that support native species, natural systems, recreation, fisheries and the economy, together with vibrant, resilient, and sustainable communities in the watershed that live in harmony with the needs of the estuary.
To collaborate—as representatives of private, public, and non-governmental stakeholders—to improve our common sense, science-based understanding of the needs of the estuary, and to develop, promote and implement projects that protect and restore the health of the bays.
St. Andrew & St. Joseph Bays Estuary Program (SASJBEP)
The St. Andrew Bay Watershed in the central Florida Panhandle covers 1,156 square miles that includes the interconnected estuary system of both St. Andrew Bay (West, North, and East bays) and St. Joseph Bay. This gem of an estuary and watershed is one of the most biologically diverse bays in North America and the only watershed in Northwest Florida located entirely in the state of Florida. Its lakes, streams, and coastal waters sustain numerous species of fish, shellfish, and wildlife. Its wetlands and coastal barriers provide resiliency against storms and coastal change.
This interconnected estuary provides significant ecological, economic, social, and recreational benefits to those living, working or visiting the region. It also offers an essential resource supporting the area maritime industry and naval operations, economic development, tourism and a range of recreational activities.
A 69,000-acre estuary, is one of the most biologically diverse bays in North America and St. Joseph Bay has the richest and most abundant concentrations of marine grasses along the Northwest Florida coast. The bays are also an essential resource to area maritime and naval operations as well as tourism.
Bay County and Florida State University are partnering to establish the St. Andrew & St. Joseph Bays Estuary Program. Over the longer term, this program will help provide for the health, enhancement and protection of the Estuary through the development and implementation a plan of action for these valuable resources.
Housed on the FSU Panama City campus, the St. Andrew and St. Joseph Bay Estuary Program will be modeled after the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program. It is funded by The Nature Conservancy, Bay County, and Florida State University Panama City, and is facilitated by the Florida State University Consensus Center.
"The creation of the St. Andrew and St. Joseph Bays Estuary Program, like others in the Florida Panhandle, is a testament to the commitment and engagement of local communities to protect the invaluable resources the Estuary provides." — Andrea Graves, marine project coordinator, The Nature Conservancy in Florida
The immediate charge for the Estuary Program is to create a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) that is science-based and community driven plan to realize the Vision for the Program. The CCMP will identify the issues and challenges that need to be addressed in the Estuary and actions coupled with partners and funding that can work together improve the condition of the Estuary and the surrounding watershed.