To back them further, county commissioners voted on Tuesday to lease land as well for research into what aquaculture practices work best in the waters off Southwest Florida.
Commissioners authorized staff to begin the county's own lease application to promote research on aquaculture by local institutions such as Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and Florida Gulf Coast University. Both have expressed an interest in conducting research, county officials say. That's good for the future clam farmers, said Commissioner Jim Coletta, who has been behind helping the fishermen in the district who were adversely affected by the 1995 implementation of a net ban on commercial fishermen.
"When you put together a venture like this, there is an element of risk," Coletta said. "Nothing helps like continued research to find out the best practices for clam farming and harvesting."
He's also hoping that Everglades City High School's aquaculture program might take an interest as well.
The county will apply to lease two 2-acre parcels of submerged state land for aquaculture research.
According to officials at the Florida Department of Agriculture, the application fee of $200 can be waived for the county, but a survey would need to be performed after approval of the application.
Rental costs for the four plots comes to $104 per year $26 per acre per year for a 10-year term, though the county could opt out at any time.
Some 20 potential clam farmers received assistance filling out necessary applications for the Florida Department of Agriculture in recent months. And the county also held workshops to answer the questions they might have about the business.
This endeavor would have fishermen seeding and harvesting clams from northern waters but that do well here. The clam farmers would seed and harvest 20 2-acre plots to see if it's a viable business for them.
The county's task force, which has been working since 2002, has chosen two sites in Gullivan Bay as potential areas to seed with baby clams.
"If our citizens are to be successful with their clam leases, we need to support their investment of time and money by ongoing research in best management techniques," Coletta said.