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Reward offered in seed clam theft

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By Ada Lang

Turn in a clam thief and make some money — around $5,000. Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not. Just help find the thieves who recently stole over 700,000 clams from one of the Southern Cross leases and you might get some serious reward money.

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If the information results in the arrest and conviction of those involved, the tipster could not only receive as much as $2,500 from the State of Florida but John Gale, co-owner of the company will match whatever the state pays.

According to Florida Statute 597.0045: “There is created a cultured shellfish theft reward program, to be administered by the department, for the purpose of granting rewards to persons who provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals illegally possessing, harvesting, or attempting to harvest cultured shellfish.”

In mid-March, Gale planted two large batches of nursery seed in adjacent deepwater leases near Corrigan’s Reef. Last week, he dove the lease to check on the progress of his clams and discovered that 44 of the 72 bags he had planted were missing. 

Gale believes that they were stolen about two weeks ago, when an extreme low tide would have made it easier for thieves to pull the bags over the course of several nights.

Initially the seed cost around $5,800, however at this point, it would be worth around $7,500. Had it been allowed to grow completely, the value could have exceeded $40,000.

Gale has a long history of being a waterman, even though he is new to Cedar Key. He was a commercial fisherman for mullet and stone crabs in Crystal River before purchasing the Southern Cross hatchery and clam farm.

Anyone who has information on this crime, please contact either FWC Officer Sherman James at 352-543-0815 or John Gale at 352-543-5980.