12 Days of Christmas: Coastal Conservation Association wants to clam up Indian River Lagoon
Oysters get all the media attention, but clams are also out there doing their best to clean up the Indian River Lagoon — at least the few still around are.
Most environmentally minded Treasure Coast residents know how oysters are "filter feeders" that clean impurities out to the water as they eat.
Like oysters, clams help filter dirty water — but not as much as their bivalve brethren.
"An oyster can clean up to 50 gallons of water a day," said Andy Steinbergs of Vero Beach, vice president of the state CCA and head of its habitat restoration committee. "A clam can clean about 18 gallons. But you get a lot clams in the lagoon, and they can clean a lot of water."
The problem is, there aren't a lot of clams in the lagoon anymore.
"Commercial fishing and the algae blooms have almost wiped them out," Steinbergs said.
The CCA is working on a project in conjunction with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and the University of Florida to fix that by breeding, raising and deploying millions of clams in the lagoon.
The plan is to put 8 million clams — each "about the size of your thumbnail," Steinbergs said — at several sites in the lagoon over the next two years and monitor them to see how well they survive.
To improve the odds, the UF's Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience at St. Augustine is developing a "super clam," Steinbergs said, by using the clams that survived all the nasty water as their breeding stock in hopes they'll be better able to thrive.
To make sure the clams aren't poached before they reach maturity and quadruple in size, the sites will remain a secret.
If all goes well, from 20 million to 25 million clams will be distributed throughout the lagoon every year.
Through a series of grants and fundraisers, the project has enough money to bring it this far; but more will be needed to keep it going and keep putting baby clams in the water.
The project will cost about $50,000 each year.
"To restore the lagoon, there are about 100 stages," Steinbergs said. "Every one is a step forward. Restoring the lagoons clams would be a big step."
How to help
Who: Coastal Conservation Association/Treasure Coast
Wish: Money to breed and restore clam populations along the Indian River Lagoon
Cost: $50,000 each year
How to donate: CCA Florida, Indian River Lagoon Clam Project, P.O. Box 568886, Orlando, FL 32856; or go to irlclamproject.com
About this series
Treasure Coast groups that research, protect and restore the Indian River Lagoon need more than holiday cheer to continue their mission of saving area waterways. Find out what they need — and how you can help them — to continue their work as TCPalm.com highlights a different organization each day from Dec. 25 to Jan. 5, the traditional 12 Days of Christmas.
- Dec. 25: River Kidz
- Dec. 26: Pelican Island Audubon Society
- Dec. 27: Environmental Studies Center (Martin County)
- Dec. 28: Environmental Learning Center (Indian River County)
- Dec. 29:Manatee Observation and Education Center
- Dec. 30:Smithsonian Marine Station Fort Pierce
- Dec. 31: Florida Oceanographic Society
- Jan. 1:Bullsugar
- Jan. 2: Clean Water Coalition of Indian River County
- Jan. 3:ORCA
- Jan. 4: St. Lucie County Reef Builders