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The Charlotte Harbor Estuary

The Charlotte Harbor Estuary is a natural estuary spanning the west coast of Florida from Venice to Bonita Springs on the Gulf of Mexico and is one of the most productive wetlands in Florida. The estuary has a large watershed that covers 12,653 square kilometers and includes the Peace, Caloosahatchee and Myakka river basins. It is the second largest open water estuary in the state. The watershed is one of 28 “estuaries of national significance” within the National Estuary Program.



The research performed by Mote staff and others since 1955 has resulted in numerous scientific and popular publications about the harbor’s ecology. Ongoing studies of snook, tarpon, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, spotted eagle rays and shellfish restoration are a few of Mote’s historic and ongoing initiatives. Many of the reports and papers produced as a result of this research are included full-text in this section of Mote’s repository. Others are available through the Mote Research Library. Mote Library




Mote’s history in Charlotte County:
  • 1955-Dr. Eugenie Clark opened the Cape Haze Marine Lab in Placida with the support of the Vanderbilts.
  • 1960s- Mote conducted the first comprehensive water quality and fisheries survey of the Harbor with Cornell and Florida State universities and established a field station at Devilfish Key.
  • 1995- Mote led the way in conserving the area’s habitats by nominating Charlotte Harbor for inclusion into the National Estuary Program.
  • 2000- Mote re-established a Charlotte Harbor Field Station on Pine Island.
  • 2001-2005- Mote staff created and managed the Charlotte Harbor Research Initiative, which brought together diverse marine researchers from numerous organizations to focus on the ecology and health of the Harbor, resulting in numerous scientific and popular publications about the harbor’s ecology.
  • 2004- the Pine Island field station is destroyed in Hurricane Charley, Mote relocates to Pine Island’s Demere Key.
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