Launch of All Clams on Deck, A Winning Plan for Suncoast Waterways
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.
Many organizations passionate about preserving our natural waterways showed up for the press conference, including Senator Jim Boyd and Representative Will Robinson. These individuals and so many more are working to obtain funding from Federal, State governments along with private individuals and companies to restore 650 acres of seagrass by strategically planting nursery-grown seagrass into denuded areas, creating 30 high-density clam restoration sites, and monitoring the primary and secondary benefits of the initiative. Clams would be recorded for genetics, allowing for future assessment of population expansion and restoration design improvements.
“Water quality is something we always have first because to Floridians; I think it is one of the premiere bi-partisan issues in the legislature, something we all agree on,” Florida State Representative Will Robinson said.
“This is economic development. This is about sustainable seafood. This is about aquaculture for the table,” Chiles said.
Stay tuned to see how this new initiative takes off as new funding is already working through various channels. The hope for all Floridians is healthy water ecosystems, supporting our economy for generations to come. Thanks to some hardworking and passionate individuals, hopefully, the science will prove what a community can do to help themselves in big ways that others will hopefully emulate in the future.