Important information about water quality is available to the clam aquaculture industry and interested people. The information at selected monitoring stations can be used real-time by clam growers and seed producers in making immediate management decisions. Archived information at additional stations can be used in comparing annual and seasonal differences in clam productivity as well as substantiating crop losses. This decision support tool is the result of a cooperative partnership among the University of Florida (UF) IFAS, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Division of Aquaculture and industry members.
Installation and operation of water quality monitoring stations at nine shellfish aquaculture lease areas in Florida began in 2002 as part of the CLAMMRS (Clam Lease Assessment, Management, and Modeling using Remote Sensing) project, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Continuous monitoring over a 4-year period documented environmental conditions that could negatively impact clam survival and growth and identified biologically relevant water quality differences among leases. A final report on the CLAMMRS project is available here. From 2006 through 2012, a partnership agreement with the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) (the funding agency) allowed for continued operation of stations. After which, a lack of federal funding resulted in most of the stations being dismantled.
Monitoring Stations and Equipment
Currently, water quality monitoring stations are being operated at two shellfish aquaculture lease areas. These are located at the Dog Island and Gulf Jackson High-density Lease Areas near Cedar Key in Levy County.
The water quality information is collected using Yellow Springs Instruments (YSI 6600-V2) monitoring probes, which measure water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and depth. These parameters are measured every half hour, 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Every two hours the measurements are posted to a website via internet connection to computers in Tallahassee. The stations undergo regular maintenance by UF and FDACS staff at the Cedar Key Marine Lab.
Real-time or “live” information can be viewed at the Division of Aquaculture’s website, http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Aquaculture. Information is posted to the website every 2 hours, but only the most recent 36 hours is shown. (For an example of the data available and an explanation of how to interpret it, click here. After this time period, the data are archived and made available on this site. Archived data are error-corrected by UF extension faculty and presented in “farmer friendly” graphic format.
To assist clam growers and others interpret the water quality values, a series of facts sheets on the role of water temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen on hard clam production was developed by UF faculty and graduate students. Topics include: how the water quality parameter is measured, why it is variable, how does it affect clam physiology, and what are the signs of stress in clams. Information is also provided on how to manage clam crops in response to the water quality parameter.