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The Gulf Shellfish Institute settles in Manatee County

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Clams harvested from Tampa Bay. Photo courtesy of Two Docks Shellfish.

Did you know that the U.S. currently imports over 90% of the seafood we consume?

And did you know that aquaculture supplies almost half of that seafood?

Commercial production of farmed shellfish is an expanding industry in Florida and has the potential to reduce the seafood trade deficit, create new jobs and revitalize working waterfronts. This has significant economic implications, but also provides some serious ecosystem perks. Florida farm-raised clams and oysters are not only a delicious and sustainable source of seafood…they are also environmentally beneficial.

Through the simple acts of eating and growing, a single hard clam can filter 5 – 10 gallons of water per day, removing Nitrogen and other nutrients from the water and sequestering atmospheric Carbon along the way. High densities of filter-feeding molluscs like clams and oysters improve water clarity and have actually been linked to increases in seagrass coverage.

The Gulf Shellfish Institute (GSI) is a non-profit, 501c-3 corporation that is now based in Manatee County. Established in 2015, the mission of GSI is to facilitate, support and encourage increased production of shellfish for both economic and environmental benefit through cooperative, industry-driven research and outreach. GSI is a research institute devoted to addressing industry and environmental needs throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

Manatee County is proud that GSI has settled here – and it makes perfect sense! We are situated in an ideal location along Florida’s Gulf coast, nestled between two estuaries of national significance. Tampa Bay supports multiple shellfish farms and Manatee County is also home to one of the largest shellfish hatcheries in the southeastern US.

Estimated annual production of hard clams by Florida shellfish growers exceeds 136 million clams.

The Gulf Shellfish Institute is working with UF|IFAS, Florida Sea Grant & Manatee County on multiple initiatives that include:
  • Enhancing industry capability and reducing economic impacts of shellfish closures related to harmful algal blooms;
  • Developing techniques and methodology to produce additional species that will diversify the market and increase industry potential;
  • Guiding research that informs restoration efforts;
  • Quantifying the ecosystem services and economic benefits that are provided by bivalves inside of Tampa Bay.
The vision of the Gulf Shellfish Institute is clear:

To attain high quality seafood produced in an environmentally sustainable fashion. Through industry-driven research, GSI aims to boost coastal economies, preserve and strengthen working waterfronts, improve coastal habitats and encourage the development of a domestic aquaculture industry capable of reducing the seafood trade deficit.

It is an exciting time for shellfish in Southwest Florida!

Online Resources:
• Shellfish industry and research overview: http://shellfish.ifas.ufl.edu
• Environmental benefit of clams calculator: http://shellfish.ifas.ufl.edu/farm-benefits-calculator
• Gulf Shellfish Institute: www.gulfshellfishinstitute.org. You can also like GSI on Facebook!)
• Pacific Shellfish Institute: http://pacshell.org
• Fish and Wildlife Research Institute: http://myfwc.com/research