This week, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Division of Aquaculture launched the field portion of its newest aquaculture education program.
Students from the Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast deployed 10 oyster cages containing 21,000 oysters on a commercial aquaculture lease in the Apalachicola Bay under the guidance of Jeff Wren and Todd Brackin, owners and operators of Rattlesnake Cove Oyster Company.
The students will continue to maintain their cages and tend to the oysters for the duration of the program until harvest next year. Students will document their experiences and present their accomplishments through a series of social media and special public events in the broader Apalachicola area.
“This program is a great opportunity for young Floridians to learn about our state’s oyster industry and how to become responsible stewards of our natural resources,” Fried said. “By teaching these students the importance of shellfish aquaculture, we are also working to restore the Apalachicola Bay oyster population and ensure that Florida oysters can be enjoyed for generations to come. This is a great partnership for Florida’s future.”
“Rattlesnake Cove Oyster Company is proud to be involved in this project,” said Wren. “We look forward to mentoring Conservation Corps students in oyster aquaculture and giving them the knowledge and skills necessary to become employed in the industry as well as become growers themselves.”
The program, which was announced in August, aims to train the next generation of aquaculturists, highlight environmental stewardship through aquaculture, and empower students to educate others in their community about the benefits of shellfish aquaculture. The project will enable students in the Conservation Corps to experience first-hand the opportunities, benefits, and challenges of oyster aquaculture.
Ethan Frazier, a crew leader with Conservation Corps, noted the importance of the project for the students involved. “This project will teach our students about oyster habitat and what is happening in the Bay, get the students out in the field to learn how oyster farming works, and see if aquaculture is a career path they would be interested in. One of the most important skills the students will gain is monitoring and analyzing the growth of the oysters we deployed today. It will be really great to have our own oysters to harvest next year.”
“This program is a critical first step to educate and train students about shellfish aquaculture and to communicate the importance of good stewardship and the preservation of working waterfronts,” said Portia Sapp, the director of FDACS Division of Aquaculture. “We are excited to partner with the Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast and the Apalachicola NERR and look forward to expanding our collaborative relationship in the future.”
This project is made possible by an award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) eeBLUE aquaculture literacy mini-grant program.
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