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 The Big Bend Shellfish Trail Opens

The Big Bend Shellfish Trail was officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony during the Cedar Key Seafood Festival Saturday, October 21, 2017. The ribbon cutting ceremony was preceded by a stirring acapela rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner by Tony, Wendy, and Elizabeth Offerle.
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Leslie Sturmer of UF/IFAS and Florida Sea Grant opened the ceremony by informing those in attendance that Trails have become a popular method to celebrate and promote the features of an area saying, “Many coastal states have an oyster trail and there is even a clam trail. But nowhere in America is there a shellfish trail.” Sturmur turned the podium over to Carol McQueen, Executive Director of the Levy County Visitors Bureau. McQueen introduced the guests partaking in the cutting of the ribbon. The guests were: Representative Charlie Stone from the Florida House of Representatives; John Meeks, Lilly Rooks, and Mike Joyner, Levy County Commissioners; Jeff Edison, Superintendent of Levy County Schools; Sue Colson, Vice Mayor of Cedar Key; Dale Register, Cedar Key City Commissioner and Lions Club President, and Levy County Sheriff, Bobby McCallum.
 
 
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The Big Bend Shellfish Trail (Trail) was made possible by a $20,000 grant to the Levy County Board of Commission and is designed to promote tourism, showcase the working waterfront, and display the natural features unique to the Big Bend area. The Trail map provides locations of restaurants, seafood markets, bait and tackle shops, marinas, and boat tours. Visitors can even find good places for selfies and/or other photos.
 
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 LEVY COUNTY COMMISSIONER JOHN MEEKS,
FLORIDA HOUSE OF REPRESENTIVES CHARLIE STONE
LEVY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS MIKE JOYNER AND LILLY ROOKS
  
The pristine beauty of the area is one thing that often brings visitors to the Big Bend area. There are multiple conditions that combine to help keep the Nature Coast clean. The Big Bend has the second largest continuous sea grass beds in the eastern Gulf leaving the coast with large marsh areas and a few beaches. Oyster bars and rocky islands protect the coast. The estuaries provide habitat critical to the development of many species during the juvenile stage. Large areas of state and federal protected lands and conservation areas adjacent to the Gulf waters provide a buffer to development. The clean waters of the Gulf in the Big Bend area are ideal to harvest shellfish. Since molluscan shellfish are often eaten raw or partially cooked they need to be harvested from clean waters.
 
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The towns on the Trail map have a long history of dependence on the sea for economic health. Fishing was the biggest industry in this area for years. In 1995 when gill nets were outlawed, fishermen in the Big Bend looked again to the sea for help. The fishermen retrained to become clam farmers and now Cedar Key produces 80% of the state’s clam harvest. The clam aquaculture, in turn, helps keep the water pure because the molluscan shellfish are filter feeders and clean the water while feeding.
 
 
 
 
 
 
FLORIDA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CHARLIE STONE,
MARION COUNTY COMMISSIONER MICHELLE STONE,  
CITY OF CEDAR KEY VICE-MAYOR SUE COLSON
 
 
The Shellfish Trail map will lead visitors to small towns along the Big Bend coast with working waterfronts. Once the visitor arrives the map will provide the needed information not only to enjoy the atmosphere of the area but also to understand the heart of the community. For example, in Cedar Key, the Shellfish Trail map lists many of the seafood restaurants. It also lists three bait and tackle shops, six seafood markets, two marinas and one clam tour. It is easy to see how this Shellfish Trail with information about shellfish and the shellfish industry will be an aid in promoting the Big Bend Area.
 
For additional Shellfish/Aquaculture information go to the following link:
 
 
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