Email | | Print |
The commercial aquaculture industry in Florida continues to grow in economic importance and diversity.
The farm-gate value of commercial aquaculture in Florida is about $100 million, while the number of species currently being cultured exceeds that found in any other state in the nation. Although most of the industry's value is associated with an incredible assortment of freshwater ornamental fish, a growing marine aquaculture sector is becoming more visible and attractive to potential investors.
The culture of molluscan shellfish, such as hard clams, now dominates the marine component of this new industry. However, increased attention is being directed to the culture of a host of other marine species, such as marine ornamentals, marine shrimp, and aquaculture picture several marine finfish species. The commercial attractiveness of these candidate species is being driven by expanding domestic and global markets and improved culture technologies, each of which strengthens the economic viability of the culture process.
The culture of marine species for food purposes is only one of the factors motivating the expansion of this industry. The culture of larvae and fingerlings provides the necessary input for commercial grow-out and stock enhancement purposes. In addition, increased attention is being given to the culture of marine species for the aquarium trade, which represents the second largest component of the nation's pet industry. The fact that these culture activities are occurring in both confined systems and submerged leases in near-shore coastal waters further illustrates the diversity which characterizes this industry.
Florida Sea Grant is uniquely situated to provide the applied research and technology transfer needed to ensure the continued growth in commercial aquaculture. For example, hard clam (Mercenaria mercenaria) culture has been a priority of Florida Sea Grant's investment in aquaculture research and extension, and Sea Grant's aquaculture specialist has been instrumental in obtaining sanctions to allow hard clam growers to qualify for USDA crop insurance -- the first eligibility of its kind for marine aquaculture in the United States.
Adequate seed availability has been a major hindrance to the development of the industry in the southeastern U.S. particularly when critical shortages have occurred. Florida Sea Grant researchers have developed hard clam remote setting technology, adapting from the Pacific Northwest molluscan shellfish industry experience to suit Florida clam farmers. Remote setting will allow southeast nursery operators and growers to become less dependent upon traditional seed sources. See report.
Aquaculture specialists have also developed a user-friendly Microsoft Excel program to help commercial hard clam growers with day-to-day business management decisions, periodic loan application information requirements, and the documentation of changes in inventory that may be needed for crop insurance. The software lets growers track clams from the original seed purchase, through nursery/grow-out planting, to final harvest. It also helps account for operating expenses and capital purchases. Plus, a map feature maintains an up-to-date picture of the location of nursery and grow-out bags on the lease site.