On February 12, 2022, a group of private citizens and various organizations gathered for the Sarasota Bay Watch Scallopalooza Event held at the Hyatt Regency in Sarasota. The challenge issued for the event was to help Sarasota Bay Watch clean up Sarasota Bay with the CLAMpaign for Clean Water. This effort is fundraising to put 1 million additional clams in Sarasota Bay to help further help restore natural populations and clean our water. The cost of these clams would be $100,000, and this event was intended to move the dial closer to that goal.
Ed Chiles of the Chiles Group was one of the Sponsors of the event, where he spoke of the All Clams on Deck initiative recently launched, helping further lobby for clams and seagrass initiatives in the three estuaries in our region. He further challenged the audience members to match his $10,000 pledge to Sarasota Bay Watch, which was just part of the amazing things that happened at this critical fundraising night here on the gulf coast. Some matching donations and other larger dollar values were raised toward the critical goal. Through a cocktail hour silent auction, additional funds padded the final total, with the event boasting over 400 attendees.
The evening included an amazing show and tell of in front of attendees of the work that clams can do in our waterways. Once everyone was seated, waiters came around and dumped Mercenaria campechiensis, the native Southern Hard Shelled clams, into the container on each table (see photo 1). Those are the same type of clams that they use for restoration. Attendees were told to keep an eye on the water condition as the evening progressed. The photo marked 3 you see below shows what the water looked like after about 1 ½ hours. The clams had eaten the algae & cleaned the water to almost clear in that short period of time.
This short video presentation done by Sandy Gilbert (START) gives a feel of the passion and dedication so many organizations have toward this critical work of restoring our waterways here on the gulf coast.
Statement from Sarasota Bay Watch – Ronda Ryan, Program Director:
We are very grateful to our supporters. We’re excited to have the funds to buy the clams currently available from the clam farmers and use them for ecological and water quality restoration. We look forward to the pending approval of our application to establish a clam lease in Sarasota Bay. It will be the first aquaculture lease in Florida for shellfish restoration purposes.
This effort will continue and stretch across the counties we all live in throughout the coming months and years. There is much work in fundraising and other efforts to better the waterways we all enjoy with numerous initiatives, organizations, and municipal and government organizations. We invite all readers to learn about clams in our waterways and the efforts underway. Please find a way to join the initiative as many educational, fundraising, and actual work events happen through so many amazing organizations in our community.
Remember, these are OUR waterways and the legacy we will leave for future generations.
Photos courtesy of All Clams on Deck