On Friday April 2, The Sarasota Bay Watch and its loyal volunteers seeded another eighty-eight bushels or about 105,000 native southern hard-shell clams (Mercenaria Campenchiensis) in Sarasota Bay. This was an historic event as it marked the last time the clams will be cultivated down in Pine Island Sound and trucked up to Sarasota Bay for seeding. From now on, the clams will be raised in Sarasota Bay under special restoration lease permits covering various locations around the Bay where improvements in water quality are needed.
This is the sixth year that START has helped fund this important environmental restoration effort that has now seeded over one million clams in the Bay. Volunteers helping to make the operation possible included Leah Reidenbach of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and her volunteers helping to harvest the clams in Pine Island, Hugh Shields of Gold Coast Eagle Distributing who provided the necessary refrigerated truck to transport the clams from Pine Island to the Sarasota Sailing Squadron where Larry Beggs’ Reef Innovations barge and 25 Sarasota Bay Watch volunteers all helped with their boats to release the clams at the designated location off Long Bar Point in Manatee County.
As a special new research feature, Kim Bassos Hull from Mote Marine Laboratory placed acoustic receivers at the release site to monitor the presence of cow nose sting rays, hammerhead sharks and other sea life that are clam predators. This is part of a joint study with Florida Atlantic University and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute to study the effect of predators on the native clam population.
The importance of this ongoing clam restoration effort and START’s GCORR Oyster Recycling Program with the Shuck ‘N Save Restaurants featured in last month’s E-Newsletter have been duly quantified in a new NOAA study conducted in the harbor in Greenwich, Connecticut. The study showed that clams and oysters reduce nitrogen from fertilizer in non-point sourced stormwater by 28% and nitrogen from septic systems by 51%. This is a significant reduction in excess nutrients in stormwater and calls for more bivalve projects in our waterways to help combat the problem of urban runoff.