Sign-up for USDA Farm Service Agency NAP Coverage

The Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), provides financial assistance to growers of non-insurable crops to protect against natural disasters that result in crop losses. NAP provides catastrophic level (CAT) coverage based on the amount of loss that exceeds 50% of expected production at 55% of the average market price for the crop. The 2014 Farm Bill authorizes additional coverage levels ranging from 50 to 65% of production, in 5% increments, at 100% of the average market price. Additional coverage must be elected by a grower by the application closing date. Growers who elect additional coverage must pay a premium in addition to the service fee. The NAP Fact Sheet can be viewed here.

To be covered for the 2017 crop year, the deadline for clam growers to sign-up and pay the applicable service fee, and premium if elected, was September 1 at your local FSA office. However, there is a provision that allows growers an additional 30 days to sign-up due to extenuating circumstances (such as a hurricane) with the FSA county committee’s approval. Oyster culture is now also covered by NAP in select counties.

Coastal Cleanup set for September 17th

The 31st Annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), taking place on September 17th this year, is the world’s largest volunteer effort to help protect the ocean. Sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, it has become the world’s largest volunteer effort for ocean health. More than 18 million pounds of trash was collected by nearly 800,000 volunteers from the shores of lakes, streams, rivers, and the ocean on just one day in last year’s ICC. They have recorded every item found, providing a clear picture of the manufactured items impacting the health of humans, wildlife, and economies. The body of data from the ICC has inspired action to rid the ocean of harmful trash. To join this year’s Coastal Cleanup, visit the Ocean Conservancy’s website to find out locations and times for your coastal community.

Cleanup of the Cedar Key shoreline and outlying islands will occur from 8:00 AM until Noon. Impacts from Hurricane Hermine make this year’s cleanup more important than ever. Volunteers are to pick-up trash bags at the Cedar Key Marina. You can cleanup from boat, kayak or on foot. In conjunction with Cedar Key’s Coastal Cleanup, the DACS Division of Aquaculture is sponsoring a cleanup effort targeting clam farming gear. From September 11 through 17, a dumpster will be located at the City Marina for clammers, boaters, or anyone to deposit recovered cover netting, clam bags, and any other discarded farming gear.

Oyster Culture Project Gets Underway

Interest in oyster culture has recently been spurred on by decreased supplies from the fisheries and higher dockside prices, resulting in a favorable economic outlook. Additionally, the infrastructure provided by the hard clam culture industry supports development of new species for culture as well as serves as a model for Florida’s oyster industry in their recovery efforts. To assist in these efforts, the Florida Governor and Cabinet began in 2013 approving modification of clam leases, in which only six inches above the bottom substrate are allowed for culture activities, enabling growers full use of the water column for culturing oysters. Currently, over 45 lease modifications for oyster cultivation have been approved in Dixie, Franklin and Levy Counties. In addition, new oyster leases are being developed in Wakulla County.

To help establish the potential for oyster culture in Florida, a project funded by NOAA National Sea Grant will allow for large-scale evaluation of an oyster breeding process to local conditions by new oyster growers. Natural triploid technology results in oyster seed with three sets of chromosomes. Triploid seed, as it develops, is sterile and will not reproduce (like seedless watermelon), creating potential production advantages. In contrast to other states, Florida’s subtropical water temperatures result in a prolonged spawning season for oysters. This project establishes multiple demonstration sites at commercial shellfish aquaculture leases, allowing other clam growers and interested individuals to observe this technology, as well as the harvested product, and understand the necessary investments of time and money. Continue reading

Virginia Continues to Lead in Cultured Clam and Oyster Production

The annual Virginia cultured shellfish assessment is available online in which a slight decline of 11% in 2015 oyster sales and a 25% reduction in clam harvests are reported, probably tied to the unusually brutal winter conditions last year. Even with these declines, Virginia remains the East Coast leader in cultured shellfish with well over $48.3M in sales. The survey conducted by the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS) shows hard clam sales of $32.3 million and $16 million in oyster sales. The values are according to the 10th annual Virginia Shellfish Aquaculture Situation and Outlook Report. The survey and report provide an annual assessment of trends and projections for Virginia’s shellfish aquaculture industry. The 2015 results are drawn from 79 completed surveys returned to VIMS. Respondents included 15 clam growers, 66 intensive oyster growers, 7 extensive oyster growers, 5 shellfish hatcheries, and 9 growers who cultured both mollusks. Continue reading

Mechanical Harvesting Devices Approved for Cultured Shellfish

Governor Rick Scott has approved a legislative bill that will allow the use of handheld or hand-drawn hydraulically or mechanically operated devices in harvesting cultured clams from aquaculture leases. The bill (SB 1318) introduced by Senator Charles Dean passed overwhelmingly in the 2016 Florida Legislative Session. A companion bill (HB 489) was introduced by Representative Brad Drake. Detailed information on Senate Bill 1318: Shellfish Harvesting can be found here. The amendment to the Florida Aquaculture Policy Act (Chapter 597.010, F.S.) will become effective July 1, 2016. At that time, according to DACS Division of Aquaculture officials, clam growers may begin using these devices without modification to their lease contract or notification to the agency. The bill also defines “dredge or mechanical harvesting device” as a dredge, scrape, rake, drag, or other device that is towed by a vessel or self-propelled to harvest shellfish. However, use of these devices on a submerged lands lease will be limited to certain conditions, which are further defined in the bill and require authorization from the Board of Trustees (Governor and Cabinet). Note that the use of any of these harvesting devices are prohibited on public shellfish beds.

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New Fact Sheet: Molluscan Shellfish Aquaculture and Production

Molluscan shellfish aquaculture provides high quality and high value seafood for human consumption, and mollusks provide environmentally beneficial ecosystem services. In the past five decades, global fisheries and aquaculture have grown steadily, and seafood consumption per capita has increased. Molluscan shellfish has traditionally been a major component of world aquaculture. Today, mollusks are cultured in 76 countries. In the United States, molluscan aquaculture is a $329 million industry involving 756 farms in 18 states.

An 8-page fact sheet written by UF/IFAS faculty provides a review of molluscan shellfish aquaculture and production worldwide and in the United States. Molluscan shellfish habitats, culture stages and methodologies are also described. Download the fact sheet (pdf file) here.

Visit the UF/IFAS EDIS (Electronic Data Information System) website to view all current fact sheets on a variety of topics.

Aquaculture Certificate Renewals and Shellfish Harvester Training

All Aquaculture Certificates of Registration (“AQ cards”) will expire on June 30th. Renewal information will be mailed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), Division of Aquaculture prior to May 1st, this includes a preprinted application and notice of $100 fee. Any applicant working with shellfish must complete the Harvester Education Training and submit a copy of their certificate of training along with the application. Applications and fees must be returned by June 30th to avoid a lapse in certification. They may be submitted via mail: FDACS, P.O. Box 6710, Tallahassee, FL 32314-6710, with a check or money order made payable to FDACS. Renewing applicants may submit their application, training certificate, and payment online here. Online renewals must include a signed application and harvester education training certificate.

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Gator Good Story on Cedar Key Clam Farming

Cedar Key Clam Farming Story

The Cedar Key clam farming industry is receiving widespread attention as the University of Florida selected its story to showcase in their new campaign – For the Gator Good. Community and industry leaders were interviewed this summer and are featured in a story entitled When a Town’s Industry Shuts Down, Does the World Have to End? Continue reading

A Strong El Niño is Predicted This Winter

Daily interactions between our oceans and atmosphere help shape the weather and climate we experience on Earth. However, naturally-occurring events such as El Niño can alter these interactions resulting in dramatic shifts in weather patterns across the globe. El Niño, also known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation, is characterized by periods of warmer tropical surface waters in the Pacific Ocean. El Niño episodes usually occur every three to seven years, but the last major El Niño period occurred during the 1997-1998 season. Continue reading

Restoring Oyster Reefs in the Big Bend Provides Many Benefits

Oysters thrive under brackish conditions, and now a University of Florida (UF) study reveals that the bivalves can actually help create the mix of fresh water and brine they crave. While evaluating a new method of restoring degraded oyster reefs, researchers confirmed an observation that Cedar Key oystermen have made for years – some oyster reefs act as natural dams, impounding fresh water that flows seaward from nearby creeks and rivers. The result – large areas of reduced-salinity water that help maintain near-shore estuarine habitats supporting oysters, sea grasses, juvenile game fish, and invertebrates important to the marine food chain as well as seafood production and recreational opportunities for people. “This finding could aid ecological and fishery restoration projects along Florida’s Big Bend Coast,” said project leader Peter Frederick, a professor with UF IFAS Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. Continue reading