Indian River Clam Project Aims For Clearer Water, More Fish

Volunteers plant colonies of native clams in the Indian River.

Here’s a little update on the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) Clam Project, which set out a few years ago with the noble goal of restoring native clams to the IRL.

This summer, the Clam Project released more than 2 million clams into the Indian River. By some estimates, a million clams can filter 28 million gallons of water a day, so that goes a long way toward restoring water quality in one of Florida’s historically great inshore fisheries.

Everyone who fishes or plays in the Indian River Lagoon has seen the decline in water quality. An excess of nutrients has led to huge losses of seagrass habitat as well as proliferation of harmful algae. All of this is magnified by the absence of filter-feeding clams, which were devastated by unchecked commercial clamming in the 1990s.

Capt. Blair Wiggins, “The Mogan Man” from the show Addictive Fishing, decided something needed to be done about it. In partnership with CCA-Florida, FWC and the University of Florida’s Whitney Labs, the IRL Clam Project was launched to reintroduce native clams to the system.

“If we can improve water quality by improving water clarity—and that’s what our filter feeders do so well—then we can re-establish seagrasses,” said Dr. Todd Osborne with Whitney Lab. “And those seagrasses then bring habitat and food sources to all the other organisms, the higher organisms like fish and manatees and turtles and things.”

The Clam Team recently gathered at River Rocks in Rockledge, Fla. to release 60,000 1-inch clams. These new clams were raised in St. Augustine at Whitney Labs and will join the 275,000 clams that were released earlier. The bi-valves will begin filtering and improving the water quality of the Indian River.

The Clam Team had all members on hand including Whitney Labs, CCA Florida, FWC and MRC to name a few. Wiggins and his camera crew were on hand to document the day’s activities and filed a video report.

For more information, go to www.irlclamproject.com.

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