The following is a Special Report by Ernesto Lasso de la Vega on the Sarasota Bay Watch’s most recent clam seeding event in Sarasota Bay.
As shown above, The Sarasota Bay Watch began their clam seeding season by planting a new batch of native Southern Hard Clam (Mercenaria campenchinesis) on Saturday, September 26th. The seeding included 30,000 clams, 20 volunteer students from Riverview High School, 11 boats and crew, a barge provided by Reef Innovations Inc. and a refrigerated truck provided by Gold Coast Eagle Distribution Inc. that transported the clams from Pine Island to Sarasota Bay at the desired 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
The participating volunteers gathered at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron (who also form part of the team) following proper COVID Safety protocols by waring masks and keeping proper distancing. This project has been one of the leading activities of the Sarasota Bay Watch since 2016 when water quality conditions in The Bay visibly deteriorated with excessive algae, including a red tide bloom, that triggered the actions of our active and enthusiastic group of volunteer citizens. With the financial assistance from START, The Barancik Foundation and our own fundraising event “Scallopalooza it’s Clamtasics” back in February, we were able to purchase 1 million clams from the Bay Shellfish Company hatchery, pay a clam farmer to grow the small clams to the desired 2 ½ inch size, and deploy the clams. According to Dr. Kim Bassos-Hull, Mote Marine Laboratory Senior Researcher, the thickness of the shell at this size can help protect them from some of their natural predators like the cow nose ray and black drum. The site where the clams were seeded is ideal, based on the salinity, water currents and the type of bottom soil. This information was provided by the Gulf Shellfish Institute, who has been collaborating with us as a scientific advisor on the project. The new clam seeding sites will function as water filtration units as they normally exist in their natural environment. In addition, by planting the clams at the recommended density of 25 clams per square meter, we have maximized their chances to reproduce and provide the next generation of clams successfully living in The Bay.
This clam seeding program has been a collaboration over the past five years with many partners, friends and volunteers who work for the common goal to improve the water quality in Sarasota Bay. We still have more sites to repopulate and invite interested volunteers to join us for our next seeding event by contacting Ronda Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.