Indian River Lagoon Clam Restoration to Help Restore Important Waterway
Adult Mercenaria mercenaria clams (6-8 years old) were collected from Mosquito Lagoon in March 2019. These “superclams” survived the brown tide and hypoxic event of 2012 and subsequent bloom events. At the Whitney Laboratory bivalve hatchery, these clams were spawned and then raised in land-based and field-based nurseries. After approximately nine months, nursery-raised clams were repatriated to selected aquaculture lease locations in the Mosquito Lagoon and in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) proper.
Of the 3-4 million clams that were reared during the first year of the project in 2019, 400,000 were moved to Mosquito Lagoon in December of 2019 and the rest will be out-planted to additional sites throughout the IRL by the spring of 2020. By then, the clams will be one year old and will be ready to begin spawning in the wild, jump starting their natural recruitment in this important estuary. Monitoring of water quality and natural recruitment will continue throughout the duration of this project.
The Indian River Lagoon Clam Restoration initiative entered its second year in 2020. In 2019, clams were collected from Mosquito Lagoon and spawned. A total of 2.5 million clams were raised and repatriated to aquaculture lease locations in the Indian River Lagoon. During the pandemic, the project was able to maintain productivity with the strong collaborations between the SJRMD, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, The Coastal Conservation Association, Addictive Fishing Television, Premium Seafood Inc. and the IRL Council.
Project partners assisted Whitney researchers in distributing an additional 1.6 million clams with a target of 6.4 million more clams planted by the end of 2021. Dr. Todd Osborne and Mr. Jose Nunez have secured funding from the IRL Council, FL DEP and private donor sources. A significant portion of future work is in collaboration with the Brevard Zoo in developing a new clam gardener program that will establish 100 clam grow out sites within Brevard County that will be monitored by citizen scientists. This program will mirror the oyster gardener program in its punctuality and will allow Whitney researchers to gather spatially explicit information about clam populations in the IRL. Monitoring of water quality and natural recruitment will continue for the duration of this project.