UF/IFAS Researchers to Build Up Ecological ‘Resilience’ in Big Bend

In less than 30 years, 3,000-year-old oyster reefs off Florida’s Big Bend coastline have declined by 88 percent, according to UF/IFAS researchers. For residents who depend on the fishing grounds and other coastal resources protected by these reefs, it’s a worrying trend. Now, thanks to an award of up to $8.3 million from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s  Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, a UF/IFAS research team will work to restore these shrinking oyster reefs and help coastal ecosystems — and economies — become more resilient in the face of climate change and rising tides. “This grant is one more way UF/IFAS can help foster sustainable communities and ecosystems on the Nature Coast,” said Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “This work also dovetails with efforts by our state and local partners to conserve land and water resources in our coastal areas,” he said. “This project, which is more than 10 years in the making, includes listening to local concerns about disappearing reefs, our initial field research, a three-year pilot project and finally a full-scale project,” said Peter Frederick, who is one of the primary investigators for the grant along with Bill Pine and Leslie Sturmer. Frederick and Pine are research and associate professors of wildlife ecology and conservation, respectively, while Sturmer is a UF/IFAS extension agent specializing in molluscan shellfish aquaculture. Continue reading

Oyster Restoration Projects Use Clam Culture By-products

Offshore oyster reefs along the Big Bend coast of Florida have declined by 88% during the last 30 years, with the most likely mechanism being repeated die-offs due to predation and disease during high salinity periods, driven by episodic and increasing periods of reduced freshwater input to estuaries. These die-off events have led to a conversion from shell to sandbar substrate and rapid loss of elevation (about 3 inches per year). This process appears to be nonreversible, because oyster spat are unable to colonize sandy substrate. A pilot project conducted by University of Florida researchers and funded by grants from The Nature Conservancy, NOAA, and Florida Sea Grant was recently completed in which the assumption that oyster populations on these reefs are limited by substrate was evaluated. Durable hard substrate was placed at the Lone Cabbage Reef complex off Levy County to determine if reefs can become more resilient to periodic declines in freshwater flow by providing a persistent settlement site for naturally occurring oyster larvae. Durable substrate was added in the form of limerock cobbles and about 400 recycled clam aquaculture bags filled with cultch, live oysters, and associated fauna to eight paired treatment and control sites spaced along the highly degraded offshore reef chain. Continue reading

10-Year NOAA Sea Grant Aquaculture Vision

For nearly 50 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP) has invested in the development of sustainable marine aquaculture businesses. Sea Grant will likely be investing $50 to $100 million in aquaculture research and technology transfer over the next 10 years. A clear vision will help guide strategic investments to support and expand the aquaculture industry. In March 2016, the Sea Grant Association established a committee to develop a 10-year vision for aquaculture investments by NOAA’s NSGCP. The purpose of this 10-year vision is to (1) determine Sea Grant’s most appropriate roles over the next 10 years, and (2) identify priority research and outreach strategies leading to sustainable economic development, environmental, conservation and social well-being. Continue reading

Seafood in the Diet-Benefits and Risks Webinar

The United States Aquaculture Society, National Aquaculture Association and North Central Regional Aquaculture Center are offering a free webinar entitled, Seafood in the Diet: Benefits and Risks – Farm-Raised and Wild.

Although there is a growing body of evidence that consuming more seafood is essential to maintaining good health, annual average per capita seafood consumption in the United States dropped significantly in 2011 – 2014. The United States Department of Agriculture 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines strongly recommend two seafood meals per week and most other health related organizations including the American Heart Association and the National Academy of Sciences have similar recommendations. This advice holds true for people of all ages including pregnant women, young children, and older adults. Yet, the average American eats less than half the recommended amount. Most people are confused by farm-raised seafood products. Do farm-raised products have the same nutritional benefits as wild harvest? What are those benefits? Is it safe for pregnant women to eat seafood? What food safety regulations are in place to ensure the safety of the seafood supply? What types of farming methods are used? Is anything added to the fish? How do I cook U.S. farm-raised fish and shellfish? Is fish farming harmful to the environment? Those are just a few of the questions that will be answered during this webinar. Continue reading

Branding Opportunities for Oyster Farmers: A Free Webinar

The United States Aquaculture Society, North Central Regional Aquaculture Center and National Aquaculture Association, are offering a free webinar for oyster farmers about branding opportunities in a growing oyster market with an increasing number of varieties.

To help oyster farmers sort out opportunities and pitfalls of branding, this webinar will feature a panel of experts, including Rowan Jacobsen, author of The Essential Oyster, Beth Walton, executive director of Oyster South, Bryan Rackley, co-owner and shellfish manager of Kimball House, and Bill Walton, Associate Professor with the Auburn University’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences.

This informative webinar will cover:

  • Potential value of branding
  • Rise of branding oysters
  • What makes brands work (or not)
  • Ways a farmer can affect the oysters to build a brand
  • How a farmer communicates the brand to buyers
  • Value of social media in branding

With an increasing supply of oysters, oyster farmers will need to think carefully about building and maintaining a brand.

Panel Leader: Bill Walton is the Oyster Aquaculture Extension Specialist with Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. He is an Associate Professor with the Auburn University’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture & Aquatic Sciences and a Marine Extension Specialist for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Working along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico at Auburn University’s Shellfish Lab (Dauphin Island, AL), he conducts applied research with local shellfish farmers, shellfishermen (commercial and recreational), and national and local organizations. Before moving to the Gulf, he did similar work along the coast of Massachusetts. His interests include all aspects of marine invertebrate fisheries, restoration and aquaculture. Bill has a BSc in Biology from Tufts, a MSc in Ecology from Rutgers, and a PhD in Fisheries Science from the University of Maryland.

Date and Time: Wednesday, October 12, 2016, 3:00 PM Eastern.

Duration: 60 minutes.

To Register: Click here.


Florida Trend Magazine Features Aquaculture in October Issue

The October 2016 issue of the Florida Trend magazine features aquaculture in their cover story, entitled Pompano and circumstance. According to the article, aquaculture has become the fastest-growing form of food production globally — in 2013, production of fish and other seafood eclipsed production of beef. In the United States, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the nation’s aquaculture support entity, wants to expand the volume of U.S. ocean-species production by at least 50% in the next four years. In Florida, however, aquaculture has a way to go. The state has well-established operations producing tilapia, sturgeon (for caviar), alligators, catfish, shrimp and clams, and a few entrepreneurs are branching out to species not usually farmed. But the overall production of farmed fish is small — the state generates more dollars from growing cucumbers than growing fish. Continue reading

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