Solutions for Biscayne Bay

Action Items for Local Governments

The Issues

Clean water is what makes Miami, Miami, and at its heart lies Biscayne Bay, an ecological and economic treasure. However, the Bay faces severe threats from water pollution and habitat destruction, which impact, the water environment, and the greater community that relies on it. Given that Biscayne Bay contributes $64 billion to our local economy, its health is paramount to our way of life. Yet, it continually suffers from persistent pollution incidents, which have led to disastrous fish kills and a rapid decline in seagrass.

Historically, the bay received limited amounts of nutrients, but urbanization has triggered excessive phosphorus and nitrogen runoff, known as nutrient pollution. This issue ranks among the foremost concerns for Biscayne Bay’s water quality and likely played a role in recent seagrass losses and devastating fish kills. Primary sources of nutrient pollution include septic tanks, stormwater runoff, sewage leaks, and fertilizer overuse. Timely, targeted, and effective advocacy is crucial to curbing these pollutant-loading sources and restoring the bay. At the same time, marine and upland habitat loss further degrade the Bay– because the Bay is connected to the land. 

Here, we offer our recommendations for addressing water quality impairments and habitat destruction in Biscayne Bay and its surrounding waterways.

The Solutions

Addressing the pollution confronting Biscayne Bay will take a collaborative and committed approach from all stakeholders. Biscayne Bay is governed by a patchwork of local municipalities and a multitude of special state and federal designations. The Bay is entirely protected either federally as a national park (Biscayne National Park) or by the state as an Aquatic Preserve or Critical Wildlife Area. Furthermore,  Biscayne Bay is also intricately linked to the broader Everglades ecosystem through the sheet flow of water coursing from Everglades National Park towards the ocean. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection designated Biscayne Bay an impaired waterbody in 2017, particularly for chlorophyll-a, which is an indicator for the amount of algae in the water.

In May 2023, Miami-Dade County issued its Annual Report Card on Biscayne Bay's Health Status by Region, assessing the quality of water, habitat, and fisheries health in the bay. This year’s report highlighted a further decline in bay health compared to the previous year.

We offer  a series of immediate actions, defined as policy solutions that could be feasible within a 5-year time horizon, and long-term objectives taking greater than 5 years and aimed at securing enduring solutions to safeguard this vital resource.

Click on a campaign below to learn about the solutions