Charlotte Harbor



  • Charlotte Harbor is Florida's second largest open water estuary at 270 square miles
  • Generally considered one of the most productive estuarine ecosystems in southwest Florida
  • Designated an "Estuary of National Significance" in 1995
  • Includes Charlotte, Lee, and a portion of Sarasota County
  • 4,400-square-mile watershed


Three main challenges exist in the Charlotte Harbor watershed:

  • Alteration and loss of coastal uplands and wetlands due to development
  • Spread of non-native animal and plant species
  • Degraded water quality from point and non-point source pollutant and nutrient loading


Through cooperation with other government agencies, these challenges are met by:

  • Developing a comprehensive conservation and management plan
  • Restoring the balance between coastal upland, wetland, and intertidal habitats
  • Implementing water quality improvement projects

Success Indicators

Successful project implementation is indicated by:

  • Improved water quality
  • Increased hydroperiods within wetlands
  • Increased coverage of seagrasses within the Harbor
  • Reduction/removal of non-native terrestrial and wetland species
  • Increased wildlife use

Future goals are then developed through an adaptive management process, always striving to help restore Florida’s natural ecosystems.