Cedar Key Aquaculture Association Annual Membership Meeting

-A A +A
By Ada Lang

 Once a year, the board of directors and general membership of the Cedar Key Aquaculture Association meet to discuss the past year’s accomplishments and plans for the upcoming year. This year, even the lure of free dessert only brought out a handful of interested members, out of a total of 52 members. 

Rose Cantwell and Sue Colson, plus Leslie Sturmer, who provides administrative support from the University of Florida, ran though a long list of items the board has been working on. They include:

The Anchor Hole boat ramp was recently re-built with a USDA Rural Development grant and the parking lot will be re-graded and graveled later this year. 

Colson explained that there are 35 members of the association who use the Anchor Hole boat ramp and parking lot, at the corner of Gulf and Hodges Boulevards.

How the association took the lead role in responding to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill that began in April of 2010.  

Cantwell explained that the board was in regular contact with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regarding “various responses and determine impacts,” according to a report issued to members. 

The association also worked closely on behalf of members regarding claims through the Gulf Coast Claims Facility and set up individual consultations. 

Earlier this year, several association members participated in the  boom deployment training and will be participating in a UF study on “community vulnerability and resiliency” after the oil spill. 

The board met with officials from Tarmac King Road mine several times and ultimately, an agreement was reached regarding a water quality monitoring program that will be deployed, funded and operated by Tarmac before construction and during operation. This information will “provide a level of assurance beyond the permitting requirements as to whether water quality in the bay (Waccasassa) is impaired or not by mining activities.”

Leslie Sturmer explained the Cedar Key “Everlasting” publication. It is a project that had been put on hold but has been resurrected. It is a color, “magazine-style” publication featuring the Cedar Key clam farming industry.  It will help “inform new residents, as well as visitors to the island, of the environmental and economic benefits of the industry and what they may do to help sustain it.” The plan is to print and distribute it during 2011-12. 

Other ways the association helps with public relations, promotion and marketing of the  aquaculture industry in Cedar Key is with food booths at the Seafood and Arts festivals, involvement in the Christmas community dinner, Santa Clam and boat parade. 

At last year’s Seafood festival, they sponsored the “Dueling Banjos….Dueling Clams” musical and culinary event that featured demonstrations by celebrity chefs and was featured in the January 2011 issue of Florida Monthly magazine. 

Several board members were also interviewed by regional media “about the status of the industry and oil spill aftermath.”

The association also participated in the “How to do Florida” TV episode that was filmed in Cedar Key and featured a clam bake on the beach at the City Park; donated $500 to the FFA (Future Farmers of America) aquaculture program at Cedar Key School, sold clams and donated the proceeds at the JenniFest event downtown, made and sold T-shirts and clam magnets with the Association’s logo on them. 

Water quality is an ongoing battle and the group sponsored this area’s 2010 Coastal Cleanup on Sept. 25, 2010,  and will do so again on Sept. 17. 

They were also vocal in their support of the purchase of the Andrews property by the Suwannee River Water Management District to prevent development near local clam and oyster growing areas. 

The group has worked closely with DACS and the new Division of Aquaculture director in an effort to garner their continued support of critical programs that help protect the industry; participating in a listening session evaluating a pilot crop insurance program and approved a matching reward of $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in recent clam thefts - bringing the total possible reward to $5,000.

Last, the Extension is working on a USDA stock improvement program and is evaluating existing clam leases and soils for potential Sunray Venus culture.