July 16, 1998 FT. PIERCE, FL - Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution has recently graduated ninety-nine new hard clam farmers and helped them establish their own businesses in Florida. All of the graduates were former net fishermen diplaced from their livelihoods due to Florida's constitutional ban on inshore net fishing enacted in July 1995.
The community-based retraining programs, developed and directed by Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution's Aquaculture Division, were federally funded by the Department of Labor Job Training Partnership Act. During the 12-month training programs, participants were required to complete course curriculum and hands-on, in-water training.
Participants in the programs, based in Cedar Key, Oak Hill and Charlotte Harbor, Florida, trained on "farmettes" of approximately 1,000 square feet of submerged land. They were provided with equipment and three sizes of hard clam seed to experience land nursery, field-based nursery and growout systems.
Upon completion of their training, equipment and seed was transferred to the participant's lease. Graduates received a state-owned submerged land lease of up to two acres in size, for a ten-year term.
Since 1994, Harbor Branch has trained nearly 300 fishermen and helped them establish businesses in hard clam aquaculture. The success of these retraining programs has resulted in the implementation of a second generation of retraining programs. Recently, the CLAM II program (Charlotte-Lee Aquaculture of Mollusks) was funded to provide training for a second group of 44 displaced fishermen and women in the Charlotte Harbor area.
Harbor Branch continues to offer support to graduates by providing technical advice and discounts on clam seed. Harbor Branch's hard clam hatchery (one of the largest clam hatcheries in the United States) provided over 400 million clam seed to nearly 300 Florida growers in 1997. This represents an increase of 100% from the previous year in clam seed offered by the facility based in Fort Pierce.
A new clam hatchery in the Aquaculture Development Park has recently been added to the existing facilites and is now fully operational. The new facility demonstrates the next generation of technology in clam hatchery, larval rearing and microalgae production in support of the industry. By the end of 1998, Florida should be come the leading producer of hard clams in the U.S. and by the year 2000, the hard clam industry is predicted to have an annual farm gate value of $50 million.
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, Inc. (HBOI) is one of the nation's premier not-for-profit oceanographic research and education facilities dedicated to the exploration of the world's oceans. HBOI is comprised of seven divisions that include: aquaculture; biomedical marine research; engineering R&D; environmental analysis and testing; marine operations technology; basic marine research and marine education.
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