Author: All Clams On Deck Staff

PRESS RELEASE: Florida Provides Global Leadership for Coastal Restoration With Seagrass & Clams

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                   
July 13, 2022           

Press Contact: Dr. David Randle
Phone 727-479-4767
Email: daverandle@mac.com

The State of Florida has provided global leadership for protecting our environment and strengthening our economy. On June 5, the 2022-2023 budget was signed into law, securing funding that will lead the way in restoring estuaries and growing coastal economies. Thanks to the leadership from Governor Ron DeSantis, State Senator Jim Boyd, and State Representative Will Robinson, $2.5 million has been appropriated to support sustainability and resilience.

The funding will kickstart a five year research and restoration initiative in the only place in the nation that shares a border with three estuaries of national significance, Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor and Sarasota Bay. This project will provide for large-scale plantings of clams and seagrass, which will support local businesses and create a natural “macro-laboratory” that will allow researchers to evaluate natural biological mitigation strategies to combat nutrient loading and improve water quality. These estuaries are cradles of the Gulf, providing critical nursery habitat to commercially and recreationally important species and supporting billions of dollars in fisheries and tourism every year. Restoring and maintaining healthy water in these systems is key to community wellbeing and economic success.

This proof-of-concept project combines science, environment and economy to enhance estuary resiliency through large scale restoration of seagrass and clam populations. Efforts will be guided by research scientists, implemented by industry specialists, and advised and monitored by an external advisory panel of experts throughout the process. This small investment in our future will yield high returns, promoting resilience of our coastal ecosystems, providing jobs and protecting the heritage of working waterfronts. It will also create room for bivalve shellfish aquaculture – one of the greenest agricultural products around – to expand.

Clams equal clean water. Cleaner water allows more light to filter through the water column which promotes photosynthesis and encourages seagrass growth. Clams, like seagrass, can stabilize sediments and provide habitat for other organisms. Together, clams and seagrass form a vital part of the marine environment that is critical to thousands of other marine organisms, including the Florida manatee (whose diet depends seagrass.)

Dr. Angela Collins, Florida Sea Grant Agent, UF/IFAS Extension and Marine Extension Advisor to the Gulf Shellfish Institute says this: “This project will allow for a large-scale research initiative that utilizes industry expertise, supports local economies, and can provide scientists the opportunity to address existing data gaps in situ. It is exciting to see this synergy between industry, researchers and resource managers, and we are hopeful this work provides the

groundwork necessary to better quantify site-specific environmental benefits and guide future efforts.

Led by the Gulf Shellfish Institute and its recent program All Clams On Deck, with support of several members of the Blue Community Consortium, and guidance from multiple businesses, management agencies, universities, and NGOs, this project will prioritize research that can quantify environmental benefits and solidify best practices that maximize the contributions of restored clams and seagrass to our coastal ecosystems. This proof-of-concept will provide the data that are necessary for efforts like these to expand throughout Florida and beyond.

Momentum is building already, with efforts underway to include all of the cities and counties that border the three targeted national estuaries to ask them to join this initiative with matching funds. Are you interesting in joining this mission? If so you are invited to join the efforts by signing up on the All Clams On Deck website (https://www.allclamsondeck.org.)

As the project confirms this methodology of combining clams and Clemson seagrass restoration for enhancing our marine environment, it will expand throughout Florida. The project has already begun efforts to include all of the cities and counties that border the three national estuaries to ask them to join us with matching funds for this effort. The project invites you to join the efforts by signing up on the All Clams On Deck website (https:// www.allclamsondeck.org.)

Ed Chiles one of the founders of this project and the Vice President of the Gulf Shellfish Institute in reflecting on the importance of this project sums it up well when he states “Water quality issues are what keeps me up at night. We have to be better stewards of these critical coastal estuaries. Our grandchildren deserve nothing less.

The mission of the Gulf Shellfish Institute is to facilitate, support and encourage increased production of shellfish in Florida and the Gulf region for both economic and environmental benefit through cooperative, industry-driven research and outreach. Increasing shellfish production via aquaculture will not only support the environment by the ecosystem services it provides, but also the economy through resilient, working waterfronts, and cultural heritage tied to Gulf seafood for generations to come.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL PRESS RELEASE HERE.

Aquaculture

A Call for Support for Aquaculture Grant Program

Another amazing team of individuals is working on a new grant proposal to help Gulfcoast waters and needs your help. Frank Asche and Taryn Garlock are applying for a special USDA NIFA grant program for aquaculture research. This team is planning to use risk modeling to determine how payments for ecosystem services could beneficially impact Florida clam and oyster growers. The plan is to look at the potential of growers being able to sell pollution mitigation credits (nitrogen, phosphorous, and carbon) as part of their general business practices and also examine the potential benefits to growers of being able to sell their clams and oysters for restoration purposes when they encounter a red tide that causes their product to grow past market size due to regulatory closures.

The work of this team is one interesting aspect of this analysis would be to evaluate SWFL in particular and see if, based on our risk model, these revenue sources might make commercial clam production in the region more economically viable, given a large number of HABs faced by the area. As with all funding available, support from other stakeholders, supporters, and vocal advocates is crucial in many cases to awards.

This team is reaching out to see if you might be willing to write a letter of recommendation for the proposal – stakeholder support always goes a long way. They have already done similar risk modeling that was published with one of their grad students. The belief is that this project is a natural extension of that work. Please review all information and lend your support through letters and spreading the word about this vital grant application.

Thank you – All Clams On Deck Team

Nature Talks

All Clams on Deck At Nature Talks and Walks for Earth Day

On Friday, April 22, All Clams On Deck Executive Director, Barbara Baker, and Chiles Group Public & Governmental Manager, Deb Cooney, greeted guests in the beautiful grassy area of the Longboat Island Chapel Earth Day event.  In addition, Marilyn Ortiz and Hayley Bodkins were selling T-shirts and providing information to guests. All of this was part of the Nature Talks and Walks for Earth Day Event put on by the Longboat Island Chapel.

Nature Talks
Left to right Hayley Bodkins-Jones, Retail Asst Manager, Chiles Group; Deb Cooney, Public & Governmental Manager, Chiles Group;
Marilyn Ortiz, Retail Buyer/Manager, Chiles Group

Other sponsors of the event included Longboat Island Chapel’s Revival Team, Longboat Observer, and the Sequoia Financial Group which is put on annually during Earth Day. It was a beautiful moment on the Suncoast to talk about environmental advocacy groups and amazing earth-friendly options here in our community. The keynote speaker was Dr. Dave Tomasko, Executive Director, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.  He spoke on current conditions and actions for a healthier future. 

There were 15 environmental & animal advocate exhibitors in the beautiful Friendship and Harvest Gardens.  Guests were encouraged to amble throughout the gardens visiting the various exhibitors.  Visitors to the All Clams On Deck exhibit were asked to support the initiative in the Florida State budget by sending a letter to the Governor.  There was an overwhelming response to the request & very positive feedback on the mission of All Clams On Deck.

Nature Talks
Left Deb Cooney, Chiles Group Public & Governmental Manager; Barbara Baker, Executive Director, ACOD

Many of the visitors signed up for the ACOD e-newsletter and entered a contest for a $20.00 gift certificate to any of the Chiles Group restaurants.  The winner is Tina Stark of LBK Real Estate. We wanted to thank everyone who came by to chat or just visited the event. See you next year!

Feature Picture (courtesy of All Clams on Deck) – This shows Deb Cooney talking with a couple interested in what All Clams On Deck is about.

Port Manatee

20th Annual Ship-Shape Showcase and All Clams on Deck

On Thursday, April 14, the Manatee Chamber Ship-Shape Showcase was held at Port Manatee.  It was a beautiful blustery day at the Port and well attended by individuals and business owners.  Ship-Shape Showcase is all about networking, connecting, and showcasing fantastic businesses and organizations here in our community. The event draws hundreds of attendees and features 60+ Chamber member booths promoting local products and services. Attendees experience a close-up view of SeaPort Manatee through narrated bus tours, enjoy complimentary light bites provided by local restaurants and caterers, jam to music, win door prizes, and more!

Ship-Shape Showcase

It was a great opportunity for All Clams On Deck’s Executive Director Barbara Baker and Deb Cooney, Public Affairs, Chiles Group, to meet a wide range of people and spread the word about the mission of the Gulf Coast Restoration Initiative.  Response from the participants was overwhelmingly positive, and everyone was eager to help in any way they could, as clean water is a hot topic not only in Florida but throughout the world. 

Fifty-two visitors signed up to receive our e-newsletter and enter a drawing for a $20.00 gift card to one of the Chiles Group restaurants.  Each person that visited the booth was asked if they would be willing to send a letter to Governor DeSantis asking he support the Appropriation 19341 ($2,500,000) in House Bill 5001.  Everyone asked enthusiastically responded they would throw their support behind this vital cause.  The number of commitments was about 75 people.  After listening to what All Clams On Deck are all about, several businesses asked that a representative from All Clams On Deck come to give a presentation to their membership.  As a result, we will be scheduling some speaking engagements in the near future.  The winner of the gift card drawing is Joe Marra, Piper Fire Protection – congrats!

Overall another amazing event in our community helping educate on clean water initiatives to help current water concerns and repair our waterways for the future!

Picture courtesy of All Clams on Deck

Resolution Moves to Governor DeSantis for Approval

On Thursday, April 7, at the Bradenton Beach City Commission meeting held at 6 p.m. at Bradenton Beach City Hall, the Commissioners approved a resolution being sent to Governor DeSantis. This is an amazing step forward for vital this initiative.

Here is an excerpt from Resolution no. 22-954: a resolution of the city commission of the city of Bradenton beach Florida, supporting HB 5001 budget 2022-23, 1665a, section 5, natural resources environment/growth management/transportation, Bradenton Beach underground power infrastructure in the amount of $3,000,000 as provided for in HB 4483 and Senate Form 1378, and 19341 gulf shellfish institute – clams and seagrass restoration – 3 estuaries SW Florida in the amount of $2,500,000, as provided for findings of fact; providing for repeal:  providing for severability; and, providing for an effective date.”

Please continue to support this initiative through your letters of support and getting the word out about this vital funding needed. Thank you to all our sponsors, supporters, and those who have sent letters already to assist in getting this funding approved.

All Clams on Deck Team

Environmental

Environmental program seeking $17.5 million to restore seagrass, clams in 3 Bay Area estuaries

LONGBOAT KEY, Fla. – A new initiative to restore seagrass and clams in Bay Area estuaries officially kicked off Saturday. It’s known as ‘All Clams On Deck’ and it’s getting support from state lawmakers who were in Longboat Key Saturday to announce the new program.

Right now in Florida, water quality is top of mind. Harmful algae blooms have killed much of the state’s seagrass. It’s made it harder for manatees to find food forcing to some starve to death.

“What keeps me up at night is water quality issues. There are a large spectrum of things we need to do wastewater treatment facilities, what we put on our lawn, how we farm and how we ranch,” explained Ed Chiles, founder of ‘All Clams On Deck’.

Full Story at Fox 13 News

Launch New Initiative

Launch of All Clams on Deck, A Winning Plan for Suncoast Waterways

All Clams on Deck

Saturday morning, January 15, 2022, was the perfect day and setting for the press conference announcing the official launch of the All Clams on Deck initiative. All Clams on Deck is the brainchild and passion of Ed Chiles, who owns the Mar Vista restaurant on the shores of Longboat Key, where the launch took place. This setting and the restaurant business are directly impacted by the seagrass and clams initiative that All Clams on Deck is helping to shed light on and positively impact this area’s waterways.

All Clams on Deck is an initiative of Gulf Shellfish Insititute that is a leader in research for sustainable aquaculture and healthy ecosystems. Those helping spearhead this initiative know that our area is battling increasing development and pollution in our waterways, including nutrients from inadequate wastewater systems that struggle to keep up. Stormwater runoff carries land-based nutrients across lawns and paved surfaces and intensifies storms and harmful algal blooms. The health of the three estuaries is as important to Florida’s future as any commercial enterprise and is critical to its economy.

 This initiative is determined to prove the science of clams and seagrass playing a significant role in cleaning water, removing excess nutrients, and helping promote healthy estuaries. As Ed stated, we all have the rare privilege of living in the only United States that borders three national estuaries of Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay, and Charlotte Harbor. These estuaries’ future health is critical to Florida’s economy as a nursery habitat for over 75% of commercially harvested seafood species.

Seagrass

All About Seagrass

Clams help remove debris from the waters and mitigate pollution and other concerns impacting our waterways on the Gulf Coast. How does that help seagrass? Why does seagrass matter? Both of these questions are great for the newcomer to our cause as the connection between clams and seagrass might not immediately be understood.

Seagrass Basics

There are seven species of seagrass native to Florida waters. Seagrass is a critical nutrient and food source for many of the animals of our great state, including manage, green sea turtles, and aquatic birds, to name a few. Additionally, seagrass produces oxygen and is a natural filtration system to the water. They can help control erosion by trapping debris, sediment, and soil in their roots. One other little-known fact is that seagrass can minimize the effects of storms on water ecosystems by adding as a buffer to absorb the energy of the waves during this tumultuous time.

Here is a brief tutorial of the seven seagrass species in Florida:

  • Turtle Grass/Thalassia testudinum – most common, the name is in reference to green sea turtles that graze on large meadows of this grass.
  • Manatee Grass/Syringodium filiforme – second most common seagrass in Florida estuaries, a favorite food of manatees
  • Shoal Grass/Halodule wrightii – colonize in areas too harsh for turtle/manatee grass, forms dense growths in high salinity water
  • Johnson’s Seagrass/Halophila johnsonii – considered a threatened species due to limited distribution, first considered a separate specifies in the Indian River Lagoon in 1980
  • Paddle Grass/Halophila decipiens – looks a lot like Johnson’s seagrass but has a distinguishing serrated leaf margin and paddle-shaped blades, forms in shallow waters
  • Star Grass/Halophila engelmanni – grow on sandy or muddy waterway bottoms
  • Widgeon Grass/Ruppia maritima – not a true seagrass as it grows in both fresh and brackish waters and not full-strength seawater, able to withstand harsh daylight and some drought conditions

Seagrass Needs

Seagrass needs are pretty simple on the surface, clean water and sunlight. Therein lies the rub as red tide, pollution, and other factors are causing those two simple needs to be more difficult for seagrass beds to obtain. Pollution in several forms being introduced to the waters cause algae blooms blocking sunlight and clean water from seagrass meadows.

A Tough Cause and Effect

As you can now see, clams and seagrass actually have a great handshake approach to helping each other. Introduce clams that filter negative things like debris, red tide, and other pollutants to the waterways, thus leading the way for cleaner water. Cleaner water leads to more seagrass growth that helps protect the waterways from erosion and other negative impacts. Finally, healthier seagrass meadows also allow for the continuation of animal life and benefit tourism and many other industries here on the Gulf Coast. Who knew that seagrass could have such a big impact?

As you can see, the cause of All Clams on Deck to better clams distribution in the estuaries will have a direct cause and effect on healthier seagrass beds. Seagrass, by extension, breeds cleaner water and economic growth in tourism and other water-specific industries. Join our newsletter to stay abreast of all the amazing things All Clams on Deck will be undertaking in the coming months. Lend support via garnering attention, writing your stories, and letters of support for lobbying efforts underway. Let’s mitigate the declining clams populations and help stop the decline of these critical waterways today.

Photos courtesy of dep.state.fl.us

Clams

Get to Know All Clams on Deck

All Clams On Deck is excited to announce the launch of their new website to keep everyone fully abreast of ongoing efforts around this important initiative. Who is All Clams on Deck, you might ask? If you haven’t been introduced to this large-scale effort, give us just a few minutes to introduce ourselves and show you this amazing new resource for information on how you can improve waterways around the Gulf coast.

Why Clams?

There is a well-documented problem in the estuaries of Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay, and Charlotte Harbor here on the gulf coast. The issue at hand is rapidly declining clam populations and seagrass due to pollution, red tide, and other bacteria in the waterways. This crisis is what All Clams on Deck is focused on correcting, which naturally lends itself to the question – why clams? Well, we turn to science to answer this one. Clams can absorb pollutants, bacteria, and even viruses from the water in which they live. This allows for cleaner waters and helps to work towards lowering the impact of pollution and red tide, to name just two issues on our waterways.

The Results

The outcome of restoring the clam populations, and by extension, better seagrass meadows, is improved water quality. This leads to healthier habitats in these waters for both commercial and recreational fishermen and others in the area who enjoy spending time on and around these waterways. Improved water quality is good for the people, the water ecosystems, and the economy of the gulf coast. Visitor populations spend billions of dollars here in our communities to visit these critical waterways. Restoring them, maintenance them, and protecting them for the future keeps the guilt coast economically healthy.

Get Involved

There are three main ways that you can get involved with All Clams on Deck. First, send a letter of support to help the lobbying efforts for 15 million federal funding to model a project restring 650 acres of seagrass and clams on the gulf coast. This is an important first step, but that means we need voices to back this effort. This leads us to you sharing our story with us in your organization, community, and even through social media. Let’s get the word out about this project and build the momentum to start improving our waterways. Of course, these efforts take the money and donating to organizations like All Clams on Deck builds a clear message of concern for the future, continuing to help drive change.

While you might not immediately have thought of clams and economic growth here on the Gulf Coast, these two share a definite connection. Join our newsletter to stay abreast of all the amazing things All Clams on Deck will be undertaking in the coming months. Lend support via garnering attention, writing your stories, and letters of support for lobbying efforts underway. Let’s mitigate the declining clams populations and help stop the decline of these critical waterways today.

Photo courtesy of Deposit Photos