START is pleased to report that the Sarasota Bay Watch’s clam seeding program near the Pier in Bradenton Beach has just been completed with the installation of another 93,000 clams. The seeding was sponsored by the City’s Community Redevelopment Authority (CRA) with a major assist from Gold Coast Eagle Distributing via the use of their refrigerated truck and Robert Baugh of the Chiles Restaurant Group that gave the clams a safe passage from their breeding grounds down near Charlotte Harbor. This was a combined community action including volunteers from the Sarasota Bay Watch, commercial clam farmers and commercial waterman from Cortez. As shown above, the volunteers used their boats to take the clams from the refrigerated truck to the seeding grounds.
The Bradenton Beach seeding project is an innovative expansion of the Sarasota Bay Watch’s ongoing clam seeding program because it involves older, broodstock clams that survived the recent red tide bloom that plagued the Gulf coast for over a year. Because the clams were raised during the red tide bloom, they could not be harvested at their smaller, more marketable size for restaurant use. As they grew larger and larger, they would have been relegated to “Chowder stock” and deemed too tough for normal half shell consumption by restaurant diners.
While the larger, broodstock calms are of less value as a food source, they are especially desirable for clam restoration. Their larger size makes them virtually predator proof and they can filter over 20 gallons of seawater a day or nearly twice the amount of water recycled by the smaller clams typically used in clam restoration projects. In addition, they are called broodstock because these females will each release from 16 to 24 million eggs several times a year to help rebuild the new clam colony.
This innovative project also offers our economically challenged clam farmers a valuable source of income to counter-balance some of the lost revenue from the ravages of red tide. They now have a new secondary restoration market for their more mature clams. With the growing recognition around the state of the value of clam and oyster restoration projects to improve water quality in our coastal waters, the restoration market will undoubtedly grow as a meaningful revenue source for our clam farmers.