Robinson Seeks Money To Lift Oyster Populations

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY JAN 9, 2020

Oysters helped formed the Manatee River, even though the shelled water creatures aren’t found there in large numbers today. But state Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, hopes to see the populations replenished.

The state lawmaker filed an appropriations bill this week seeking a $950,000 investment in a Manatee County program to place live clams and oyster shells in the Manatee River, Sarasota Bay and some Tampa Bay estuaries. The county will work with the University of Florida Sea Grant program, the Gulf Shellfish Institute, Sarasota Baywatch and Solutions To Avoid Red Tide on the project.

It’s not just about building up fauna. Robinson said increasing these wildlife populations will assist with a major priority of the state: water quality improvement. Robinson spent a weekend recently with business leader Ed Chiles discussing beach reclamation and learned about how shellfish aid in the ecosystem.

“This allows the water to be cleaned by nature,” he said. “I was just amazed by what ordinary clams could do. It’s just one small thing to do to clean the water.”

The effort won’t be funded entirely by the state. Manatee County’s Parks and Natural Resources Department will provide $100,000 for design and planning and $200,000 for finalizing plans and permitting, along with $320,000 in construction costs. Marine Serves will chip in $10,000. The county will work with the University of Florida Sea Grant program.

Several nonprofits have also committed resources. The Gulf Shellfish Institute, has promised $230,000, Sarasota Baywatch $70,000 and Solutions To Avoid Red Tide $20,000, according to the formal state appropriations request. Robinson’s office also cites research by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program into facilitation of seagrass productivity using indigenous, suspension feeding bivalve oysters, specifically Mercenaria campechiensis.

Longterm, the program will expand seagrass coverage in the waters and improve clarity, while reducing shoreline erosion.  Oysters will be monitored long-term. And as fish populations thrive in cleaner water, officials figure there could eve be a tourism boost as more anglers visit the Manatee River and other benefitting water bodies.

“We have heard loud and clear that good clean water, both dirnking water and obviously water in our Gulf, is totally important to this region,” Robinson said. This program is one of many water-centric projects local lawmakers will push for when the Legislative Session begins next week.

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