Florida Sea Grant highlights aquaculture in new Florida Trend report

Clamming operation in Cedar Key, Florida. 2011 UF/IFAS Photo by Dawn McKinstry.

Baskets of hard clams on a Cedar Key dock — Cutline below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Aquaculture, the controlled production of seafood, ornamental fish and other aquatic life, is big business in Florida. In 2012, the state’s producers earned $70 million in cash receipts, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey.

Worldwide, aquaculture is responsible for about half of all seafood consumed, so this emerging sector of Florida agricultural production holds great promise for the future, said Karl Havens, Florida Sea Grant director and a professor with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

To inform the public about this rapidly developing field, Florida Sea Grant chose aquaculture as the subject of its latest special report for the statewide business magazine Florida Trend.

The report, “Florida’s Economy Is Expanding Under the Sea,” appears in the April issue of the magazine. It’s the second of a four-part series focused on important opportunities and challenges involving the marine environments off Florida’s shores.

“We have tremendous optimism about aquaculture’s potential to expand and to meet important needs,” Havens said. “Our role at Florida Sea Grant is to find ways of making aquaculture production more efficient, more economically viable and more sustainable, and bring that knowledge to producers.”

The report highlights statewide production of the hard clam, Mercenaria mercenaria, and explains how Florida Sea Grant personnel helped establish this industry, which now generates about $39 million in gross revenue impact each year.

“Several of our faculty evaluated the hard clam for production in Florida waters,” Havens said. “Their expertise and dedication were essential in convincing local fishermen that this species was suitable for aquaculture production and that a ready market existed.”

Also mentioned are several new aquaculture initiatives, including production of sunray venus clams, oysters, corals and aquatic plants.

For more information about aquaculture, visit the Florida Sea Grant website, http://www.flseagrant.org

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Cutline: Orange and blue baskets of freshly harvested hard clams (Mercenaria mercenaria) await transportation from this dock in Cedar Key, Fla. to a processing plant. Located in the Gulf of Mexico just off the Levy County coast, Cedar Key is the state’s foremost producer of hard clams, thanks in part to the Florida Sea Grant aquaculture program.

Credit: UF/IFAS photo by Dawn McKinstry

By Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, tnordlie@ufl.edu

Source: Karl Havens, 352-392-5870, khavens@ufl.edu