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Marine Debris Program Supports Aquaculture Debris Prevention in Florida

SEPTEMBER 21, 2018 — On September 12, the NOAA Marine Debris Program supported the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Aquaculture (FDACS) in hosting a shellfish aquaculture gear management workshop in Cedar Key, Florida.

Group of people standing around a truck.
Workshop attendees learning about aquaculture gear used for oyster farming. Image credit: NOAA.

The workshop was developed to strengthen statewide effectiveness in addressing marine debris from the shellfish aquaculture industry. Over 40 individuals from the shellfish farming community, including local farmers and aquaculture business owners, attended the workshop and received resources to help prevent aquaculture debris.

In Florida, the shellfish aquaculture industry has seen tremendous growth, with thousands of acres of state submerged land leased for aquaculture production. As the industry continues to grow and utilize new gear technologies, so does the need to mitigate potential environmental impacts from aquaculture farming, including marine debris. The source of aquaculture debris from shellfish farms in Florida is primarily lost or abandoned gear, such as clam cover netting, cages, bags, ropes, and pipes. Much of the gear utilized in modern culture practices is made of plastic. These non-degradable materials are excellent for shellfish production in saltwater; however, they can be damaging to estuarine ecosystems if lost.

Experts from NOAA, FDACS, academia, and industry discussed the importance of environmental stewardship and provided practical management techniques to farmers, such as proper gear anchoring methods and severe-storm preparation strategies. Charles Grisafi, Florida and Caribbean Regional Coordinator for the Marine Debris Program, presented an overview of the marine debris problem, the Program’s ongoing work in Florida, and the importance of marine debris prevention as the shellfish aquaculture industry increases in size and begins utilizing new production methods and gear. The workshop concluded with an overview of a recent aquaculture debris survey completed in Cedar Key and an industry-led cleanup for this year’s International Coastal Cleanup event.

For more information, please contact Charles.Grisafi@noaa.gov.

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