The Indian River Lagoon Clam Restoration Project (IRLCRP) is a grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the waters of the Indian River Lagoon. Founded by Captain Blair Wiggins, host of Addictive Fishing Television and Blair Wiggins Outdoors, IRLCRP aims to replenish the lagoon’s natural filtration system, which was devastated in the 1990s due to commercial overharvesting of clams.

About Captain Blair Wiggins

A native Floridian, Capt. Wiggins has over thirty years of experience as a charter fishing guide. Raised on the Banana River, part of the IRL system, he has witnessed firsthand the region’s rich marine life, including fish, clams, oysters, and shrimp. Once a fisherman’s paradise and the Sea-trout and Redfish capital of the world, the area has suffered due to urbanization and commercial exploitation.

The IRL Billion Clam Initiative

Since 2017, CCA Florida, Blair Wiggins Outdoors, the University of Florida Whitney Lab, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have partnered in IRL clam restoration. They have now launched the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) Billion Clam Initiative. This crucial initiative focuses on revitalizing and preserving the delicate ecosystem of the IRL. Clams play a significant role in maintaining water quality and supporting various aquatic species, such as seagrasses, in the region.

To date, over 27 million clams have been planted, and natural spawning has been observed. Clams are now being found in areas where they were absent five years ago, confirming the success of these efforts. The Billion Clam Initiative aims to leverage innovative methodologies and technology to substantially boost clam deployment. A patented drone platform will be used to precisely distribute clams in specific locations and densities, vastly accelerating the process compared to manual spreading. Large-scale systematic spreading of small clams will help overcome predation pressures and enable more clams to be restored to the IRL.

To kickstart this initiative, CCA Florida and the Duke Energy Mariculture Center donated $100,000 in October 2023. The first phase of the project aims to deploy 100 million clams at a cost of $1 million. For every $1 donated, 100 clams will be released in the IRL. By participating in this restoration project, we can ensure the long-term sustainability of this vital estuarine environment.

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Reviving the Lagoon

Over the past 60+ years, the Indian River Lagoon has been dying a slow, progressive death due to urbanization and commercial activities. Despite numerous efforts, many solutions have fallen short due to lack of interest, unfounded science, and politics. The 1990s saw the decimation of the lagoon’s clam population, with an estimated 9 billion clams removed. This overharvesting led to the lagoon’s near-collapse.

Ongoing Efforts

Determined to restore the lagoon, Capt. Wiggins partnered with the Coastal Conservation Association Florida (CCAF) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC). In 2019, with Dr. Todd Osborne from the University of Florida, they discovered 24 surviving “Super Clams” in the Mosquito Lagoon. These clams had survived significant environmental events and became the foundation for restoration efforts.

At the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience, these clams were spawned and raised in nurseries. By 2020, millions of nursery-raised clams were repatriated to selected locations in the Mosquito Lagoon and Indian River Lagoon.

Future Goals

A significant portion of future work involves developing a clam gardener program, establishing 100 grow-out sites within Brevard County monitored by citizen scientists. This program will help researchers gather valuable data on clam populations and water quality in the IRL, ensuring the project’s long-term success.

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Meet Our Team

Captain Blair Wiggins

Founder & Project Leader

Captain Blair Wiggins, a native Floridian, has over 30 years of experience as a charter fishing guide. As the host of Addictive Fishing Television and Blair Wiggins Outdoors, he brings unparalleled passion and knowledge to the IRLCRP. Growing up on the Banana River, part of the IRL system, Blair has witnessed the changes in the ecosystem firsthand and is dedicated to its restoration.

Dr. Todd Osborne

Scientific Advisor

Dr. Todd Osborne is an Associate Professor of Biogeochemistry at the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience, University of Florida. With extensive experience in estuarine and marine ecosystems, Dr. Osborne provides critical scientific guidance to the project, ensuring that our restoration efforts are grounded in solid research.

Norman Kolsh

Project Consultant

Norman Kolsh is a seasoned environmentalist with a robust background in marine ecosystem restoration. He has played a pivotal role in various projects aimed at revitalizing aquatic environments, including his significant contributions to the Indian River Lagoon Clam Restoration Project. Norman’s expertise and dedication are vital to the success of our restoration initiatives.

Cory Redwine

UF Field Technician

Cory Redwine works as a field technician under Dr. Todd Osborne and Norman Kolsh. She is a passionate environmentalist and artist, committed to combining her artistic talents with her dedication to marine conservation. Cory’s hands-on work in the field is crucial to the ongoing success of the IRLCRP.

Mike Sullivan

Project Consultant

Michael J. Sullivan, a pioneer in shellfish aquaculture, is the driving force behind Premium Seafood Inc. and The Commander’s Shellfish Camp, LLC. He has over 30 years of experience in shellfish operations, focusing on hatchery, nursery, and grow-out operations. 

Ernest Hale

Project Consultant

In 2020, Ernest Hale founded Blue Ocean Quest to design and implement innovative coastal restoration solutions using heavy lift drones. He created a patent-pending clam deployment apparatus, coordinating with 3D developers, manufacturers, and drone software developers to bring this groundbreaking technology to life.

Partners from the industry

Partner Organization

CCA Florida has been a crucial partner in the IRLCRP since 2017. Their support and expertise in marine conservation have been instrumental in our efforts to restore the Indian River Lagoon. CCA Florida works tirelessly to advocate for and implement conservation initiatives that benefit Florida’s marine environments.

Partner Organization

The FWC has been a key collaborator in the IRLCRP, providing regulatory support and expertise in wildlife management. Their involvement ensures that our restoration activities align with state conservation goals and regulations.

Partner Organization

The Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience at the University of Florida conducts vital research that underpins our restoration strategies. Their state-of-the-art facilities and scientific expertise allow us to develop and implement effective restoration techniques.

Partner Organization

Blue Ocean Quest  is utilizing advanced drone technology to efficiently deploy clams across restoration sites. This innovative approach accelerates the restoration process, enhancing the project’s efforts to improve water quality and biodiversity in the Indian River Lagoon. Together, we are pioneering cost-effective solutions for coastal restoration and environmental conservation. 

Partner Organization

Premium Seafood proudly partners with the Indian River Clam Restoration Project to support marine conservation and sustainability. Through this collaboration, Premium Seafood provides vital resources and expertise to help restore clam populations in the Indian River Lagoon, enhancing water quality and biodiversity. Together, we are committed to preserving this crucial ecosystem for future generations.

Project Volunteers

Our dedicated volunteers are the backbone of the IRLCRP. From citizen scientists monitoring clam populations to individuals assisting with clam gardening programs, their efforts are essential to the success of our project. We are incredibly grateful for their passion and commitment to restoring the Indian River Lagoon.

We are always looking for passionate individuals and organizations to join our team. If you are interested in contributing to the restoration of the Indian River Lagoon, please contact us.

Help support this important project today!

Sponsors