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Sarasota nonprofit secures state's first underwater aquaculture lease

The lease will be used for clam restoration and research.

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  • | 2:40 p.m. June 15, 2022
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Sarasota Bay Watch volunteers at a clam release in March. (Courtesy photo)
Sarasota Bay Watch volunteers at a clam release in March. (Courtesy photo)
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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The Sarasota Bay Watch is newly in the business of rearing native hard-shell clams after receiving the state’s first underwater aquaculture lease. 

The lease, which allows for clam restoration and research, provides rights to the Sarasota Bay Watch to rear and distribute native hard-shell clams. The move is expected to improve regional water quality through bivalve restoration, according to a statement. 

“In response to increasing interest in shellfish restoration activities, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Aquaculture updated language to allow Aquaculture Management Agreements to be issued to qualified entities for restoration aquaculture purposes,” Charlie Culpepper, the assistant director of FDACS's Division of Aquaculture, says in a release.

The nonprofit’s five-year lease of a 4.5-acre plot also provides room for scientific research. 

“This lease enables us to increase our restoration scope and provides a large-scale project for research to advance the understanding of water quality issues and impactful approaches to restoration,” says Sarasota Bay Watch’s Executive Director Ronda Ryan. 

The clam project began in 2018. So far, the nonprofit has released a total of 1.53 million clams. According to the release, it takes about 18 months for a clam to be ready for placement within a pre-assessed restoration site. The clams will continue to filter water, spawn and reproduce within the lease during that time period.

“Sarasota Bay Watch’s motto that 'A Healthy Bay is Everybody’s Business' communicates that everyone needs to be a part of the solution,” says Ronda Ryan, the executive director of Sarasota Bay Watch. “Engaging the community in the process of clam restoration has increased healthy water awareness, an understanding of the negative impacts threatening our water and the need for action.”


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