Sarasota Bay with Ringling Bridge

About SBEP

The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program is dedicated to restoring our area’s greatest and most important natural asset – Sarasota Bay.

The program strives to improve water quality, increase habitat and enhance the natural resources of the area for the use and enjoyment by the public. The health of Sarasota Bay has seen significant gains since it was named an estuary of national significance by the U.S. Congress in 1989.

SBEP began in June 1989 when Sarasota Bay was designated an “estuary of national significance ” by the U.S. Congress as part of the Water Quality Act of 1987. SBEP is one of 28 National Estuary Programs ( in the United States. The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program is a member of the Association of National Estuary Programs (

SBEP was initially tasked with characterizing the environmental conditions of Sarasota Bay and formulating a comprehensive restoration and protection plan based upon this analysis. The resulting plan was the Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP). The CCMP recommends specific actions to be taken by local governments as well as state and federal agencies to restore and protect Sarasota Bay. The CCMP was formally approved by the Governor of Florida and the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1995.



27 Years of Progress

SBEP and its partners have accomplished the following key results:

Gulf Guardian Award 2009 Partnership Category

  1. Significant water quality improvements in the Bay and tributaries due to an estimated 64 percent reduction in nitrogen pollution since 1988.
  2. Since 1988, seagrass coverage in Sarasota Bay has increased by 55 percent, reaching levels 38 percent above 1950 coverage.
  3. Restoration and enhancement of approximately 1,650 acres of wetland habitat with creation of 30 new ecological parks around the Bay.
  4. Deployment of 3,000 habitat modules on nine new artificial reef sites.
  5. Establishment of the first oyster re-colonization project in 2005; completed two projects in Sarasota County and one project in Manatee County. Also, helped to establish research protocols for restoring local bay scallop populations.
  6. Creation of the Gulf Coast Heritage Trail to promote managed public access to points of historical, cultural and environmental interest around the Bay.
  7. Establishment of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program as a special district within the State of Florida.
  8. Implementation of a comprehensive public education program. Since 2000, more than 60,000 local school children have received outdoor education about Sarasota Bay.
  9. Disbursement of over $275,000 in grant funding to support more than 65 local organizations completing Bay-friendly projects throughout the watershed. Read about Bay Partners Grants here.
  10. All Sarasota Bay waters now meet state water quality standards for nutrient pollution.
  11. In 2009, SBEP and its partners were awarded a first place Gulf Guardian Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in recognition of the program’s efforts to recover vital seagrasses in Sarasota Bay. Read more