At Florida Sea Grant, we support research and extension to grow sustainable aquaculture in the state and reap its social, economic, and environmental benefits while supporting commercial and recreational fisheries. We foster responsible aquaculture that provides safe, sustainable seafood; creates employment and business opportunities in coastal communities; and complements our strategic plan for maintaining healthy and productive marine populations, ecosystems, and vibrant coastal communities.
The inability of wild seafood harvests to keep up with the demand for seafood and other aquatic food products has motivated growers to increase the culture of food from our freshwater and oceans. Indeed, the Florida commercial aquaculture industry has long been recognized as one of the most diverse in the nation, with a “pond gate” harvest value of $70 million associated with dozens of species according to recent USDA statistics.
One of the state’s most dramatic success stories has been in the culture of clams. Hard clams are grown on nearshore, submerged leases off several areas of the state’s coast.
As Floridians’ demand for food that is “farm-to-table” increases, Florida Sea Grant agents and researchers are working to develop technology to expand marine fish farming and aquaponics to inland locations.
Additionally, as leases open up in the Gulf of Mexico for open-ocean aquaculture operations, Florida Sea Grant researchers are evaluating the environmental impact of these farms to ensure our seafood meets consumer expectations for safe and sustainable choices.
Florida’s aquaculture industry has also been evolving in an innovative way toward the culture of species that are never intended to be eaten, at least by people.
The term is called restoration aquaculture, and it entails cultivating marine plants and animals like coral, sponges and marsh grasses that will one day be transplanted to the wild to increase declining populations and improve the health of coastal ecosystems.
Lastly, the demand for saltwater ornamental fish and aquatic plants for the aquarium trade continues to grow, providing opportunities for the state’s existing tropical fish growers. In fact, Florida is the nation’s leader in ornamental fish culture.