Shellfish harvesting areas (SHAs) are established, monitored, and managed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), Division of Aquaculture. Because shellfish such as oysters and clams are filter feeders and can harbor potential contaminants that pose health risks to humans, several water quality standards must be met before FDACS can designate an area for harvesting. Within a SHA, there are several water classifications. The public is only allowed to harvest shellfish from approved or conditionally approved waters.
Before visiting a SHA, it is always recommended to check with FDACS before harvesting to ensure the area is indeed open. Heavy rains, red tides, and other events that can potentially introduce elevated levels of contaminants can result in temporary closures. To find the status of a SHA visit www.floridaaquaculture.com, click on "Shellfish Harvesting," and then "Daily Status." The open/closed status of SHAs in Southwest Florida is also available from the FDACS shellfish field office in Punta Gorda by calling (941) 833-2552.
In order to legally harvest shellfish, a valid saltwater fishing license is required. In addition to knowing where legal harvesting of shellfish is allowed, recreational harvesters must also be aware of size and bag limits and seasonal closures associated with shellfish.
Recreational Shellfish Regulations
- Minimum size limit:1-inch thick across the hinge.
- Bag limit: one 5-gallon bucket per person or two per vessel, whichever is less, per day. There is no set closed season, but all harvest is prohibited when allowable harvesting areas are closed.
For more information on recreational shellfish regulations visit: http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/regulations/
Conditionally Approved Shellfish Harvesting Areas in Southwest Florida
|Ten Thousands Islands SHA in Collier County. Click on the map for a larger view.|
|Pine Island Sound SHA in Lee County. Click on the map for a larger view.|
|Gasparilla Sound SHA in Lee/Charlotte County. Click on the map for a larger view.|
Commercial Clam LeasesWithin the Ten Thousand and Pine Island Sound SHAs, aquaculture lease areas are established for the production of hard clams. Leased from the State of Florida, the corners and perimeters of these areas are marked with PVC pipes and signage. Cultured shellfish are protected by law; harvesting is prohibited except by the leaseholder. Anchoring within these areas is also restricted.
A Word About Vibrio vulnificus...
Although clams and oysters are delicious and provide many nutritional benefits, there can also be potential risks associated with consuming them. Vibrio vulnificus is a bacteria that can cause severe illness or death to at-risk people who eat raw shellfish. The bacteria is found naturally in warm coastal waters, such as the Gulf of Mexico, and bacteria levels can increase during summer months. Vibrio vulnificus is NOT a result of pollution, and can be found in waters approved for shellfish harvesting. The bacteria does NOT change the appearance, taste, or odor of shellfish. To learn more about Vibrio vulnificus, and how to minimize risks associated with it visit: http://www.issc.org/client_resources/Education/English_Vv_Risk.pdf