florida-agriculture.com

Agriculture Press Release

May 25, 2000

Florida aquaculture, live on the web!
Internet site provides information on growing segment of Florida agriculture

TALLAHASSEE -- Aquaculture, or the culture of aquatic species, is one of the fastest-growing and most exciting segments of Floridas diverse agriculture industry. The Division of Aquaculture, created last year within the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, regulates and promotes the development of this important industry in conjunction with proper management of natural resources.

A new Internet web site, www.FloridaAquaculture.com , provides valuable information to those already involved in the industry, as well as prospective entrepreneurs, researchers and the general public. The site contains information on the types of aquatic species being farmed, an overview of the importance of aquaculture to Florida, the status of shellfish harvesting areas, procedures for aquaculture farm certification and lease applications. Currently users are able to download and print shellfish harvesting area maps. Real-time maps of shellfish harvesting and lease data will be added soon.

"This informative web site enables shellfish harvesters and processors, as well as anyone interested in our states dynamic aquaculture industry, to quickly and easily access data," Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford said. "Visitors to the site can learn about a part of Florida agriculture that is having a major impact on the domestic and international market."

Aquaculture got its start in Florida in the early 1920s with the production of tropical fish. Over the years, the industry expanded into a broad range of species including aquatic plants, catfish, hybrid striped bass, alligator, hard clams, oysters and more.

Much of Florida aquaculture consists of ornamental species tropical fish and plants. More than 800 varieties of ornamental fish are produced in Florida. Mainstays include mollies, guppies, angelfish, tetras and barbs. More than 500 aquatic plant species are grown and sold to enhance the function and aesthetics of aquariums or garden pools and fountains. Species range from delicately shaped aquarium plants, to flowering water lilies, to submerged wetland grasses, shrubs and trees.

The fastest growing segment of Florida aquaculture is the culture of hard clams on submerged coastal lands leased from the state. Florida is now the nations top producer of farm-raised hard clams. Another valuable shellfish is the American oyster, now cultured on over 500 acres of state-owned submerged lands leases located in Apalachicola Bay.

The value of Floridas aquaculture sales rank third in the nation. Sales have increased from $35 million in 1987 to $102 million in 1997. More than 800 Florida aquaculturists produce the greatest variety of aquatic species of any state in the nation.

The Division of Aquaculture regulates the aquaculture industry through numerous programs and responsibilities. The division:

  • Regulates aquaculture facilities and shellfish processing plants.
  • Opens and closes shellfish harvesting waters to protect human health.
  • Ensures the continued productivity of oyster reefs through a mitigation/restoration program.
  • Issues leases of submerged state lands for aquaculture.
  • Assists industry development by working on special projects and providing a forum for industry-requested research projects.
  • Works with the Aquaculture Review Council, a farmer advisory committee that provides guidance and input on the annual development of the Florida Aquaculture Plan.
  • Ensures compliance with Best Management Practices (BMPs), which are formulated to achieve Floridas environmental goals.
  • Administers programs to promote industry growth through production and technical support, product promotion and advertising, and financial assistance.

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For more information:
Jackie Harrell
(850) 488-5471


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