The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 8 - December 5, 2012

reel time

Local businessmen support scallop restoration

Reel time

Rusty Chinnis | submitted
With the support of local businesses, Sarasota
Bay Watch released a million scallops
into the bay this week.

On Wednesday Nov. 28, Sarasota Bay Watch (SBW) released another million scallops (spat) into Sarasota Bay. The latest release brings the total stocked in its first year of a multi-year effort to almost 10 million. Wednesday’s release was unusual in that it was accomplished under the auspices of a group of Island businessmen and businesses that understand SBW’s mission that “A Healthy Bay is Everybody’s Business.”

Anna Maria Island’s Ed Chiles, of the Chiles Group, teamed up with Ted LaRoche, of the LaRoche Family Foundation, and Michael Coleman, of the Pine Avenue Restoration (PAR), to provide the funding for the release.

Chiles has been a long time resident of Anna Maria and is invested both personally and from a business perspective in the Island and the marine resources that surround and define the Island. Chiles has lived on Anna Maria for most of his life and never remembers seeing scallops in the bay. He’s excited to see the water quality and habitat improve to a point that a viable population might be a reality in the future.

According to Chiles, “Projects like this need to be on everybody’s mind because our quality of life and our economy are closely tied together.”

He sees Sarasota Bay Watch’s projects, including scallop restoration as just the tip of the iceberg. Efforts like this have consistently been supported by the community and should galvanize business baywide.

“We believe other business people who love the area will see the connection to the success of their livelihoods, become enthused and kick in too,” said Chiles.

Ted LaRoche from Murfreesboro, Tenn. is Chiles' capital partner in PAR and appreciates the potential of the project. He brought a number of family members to the release including a niece and nephew he hopes may one day participate in a recreational harvest in Sarasota Bay.

“I’m excited about Sarasota Bay Watch’s efforts to prove that bay waters are cleaning up and able to support a keystone species”, says LaRoche.” What a wonderful legacy it will be to see them reclaim their habitat”.

Sarasota Bay Watch President Larry Stults took part in the release along with Project Manager Ronda Ryan. Ryan’s son Jack also donned a wet suit to help in the release. Stults pointed out that Wednesday’s effort was particularly noteworthy in that it marked the first release that was completely funded by a group of businessmen.

“A big, long-term project like scallop restoration needs sponsorship from all quarters,” said Stults. “Ed Chiles, Ted la Roche, and Michael Coleman have taken the lead, and set an example of how local business interests and Sarasota Bay Watch can work together to protect and restore our natural resources.”

Stults applauded the funders as setting a precedent, one he hopes will be the first of many partnerships between Sarasota Bay Watch and local businesses, groups, and individuals to support ongoing effort to improve Sarasota Bay.

The spat were raised by Curt Hemmel, of Bay Shellfish Company in Terra Ceia. The release was conducted over grass flats near City Island, home to coalition partner Mote Marine Laboratory. Other members include the St. Petersburg based Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, the Sarasota Yacht Club and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.

The Sarasota Yacht Club has hosted two Scallopalooza fund raisers that have provided the bulk of the funds for scallop restoration to date. In the next couple of months, another 20 million to 40 million larvae are slated to be released into the bay.

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