A combination of flooding from the Suwannee River, which empties into the gulf, and a strong northwest wind that blew a plume of fresh water out to the farms lowering the salinity, coupled with atypical high water temperatures in the mid nineties during the month of June has led to loss of clam crop.
“You get that combination and you get mortalities,” said Leslie Sturmer of University of Florida/IFAS, Shellfish Aquaculture Extension Program.
The extent of the damage has not yet been determined. Some clam farmers are reporting as little as 5 percent loss and others have reported up to 80 percent or more loss on some leases located in shallow waters.
“Farmers are out there looking at it. Growers are assessing the damage to their crops now,” she said. It appears that the event is localized to the Gulf Jackson region, she said.
“This is a naturally occurring phenomenon,” said Marine Biologist Scotty Moots, Director of Aquaculture for Southern Cross Sea Farms. “It’s something that happens from time to time.”
Continuous monitors located in Gulf Jackson showed salinity dropping dangerously low, less than 10 parts per thousand, during mid-June.
Conditions have improved for the past week with monitors showing salinity at a healthy salt content of at least 20 parts per thousand.