An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Sarasota County, USF Water Institute

Sarasota County Water Atlas

Shellfish Harvesting

Shellfish such as oysters, clams, scallops, and mussels can be legally harvested throughout certain coastal regions of Florida; but only oysters and clams are approved for harvesting in limited areas in Sarasota Bay, Roberts Bay North, and Lemon Bay. For Sarasota Bay and Roberts Bay North (Area 54), 7,987 acres are conditionally approved for oyster and clam harvesting from the State Road 684 bridge to Anna Maria Island southward to the north shoreline of Phillippi Creek. For Lemon Bay (Area 56), 3,136 acres are conditionally approved for oyster and clam harvesting from the State Road 774 Bridge to Manasota Key southward to north of Gasparilla Pass and the State Road 771 bridge.

Shellfish harvesting area maps and more information can be found at:

Shellfish Consumption

Oysters and clams are filter feeders that obtain food and oxygen from the water. During feeding, they can also take in contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, and chemicals that can build up and concentrate in their tissues. Eating raw and/or partially cooked clams and oysters from polluted waters can cause serious human illnesses. The Shellfish Environmental Assessment Section (SEAS) of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) classifies and manages Florida shellfish harvesting. According to SEAS, the goal of shellfish harvesting area classification and management is "to provide maximum utilization of shellfish resources and to reduce the risk of shellfish-borne illness." To protect public health and prevent the public from consuming shellfish harvested from polluted waters, SEAS closes shellfish harvesting areas when rainfall in the area reaches a certain amount. Closures are based on rainfall since nonpoint source stormwater runoff transports pollutants into waterways and marine waters where they can impact the shellfish beds. Areas may also be closed under emergency conditions such as red tide blooms, hurricanes, or tropical storms.

For more information about the Florida Shellfish Program, see the following link: