Coastal Policy Lab students develop science-to-policy tools for restoration aquaculture and governance of wild oyster fisheries

By Tom Ankersen, Legal Skills Professor & Legal Program Director, UF Law

The CCS Coastal Policy Lab focused the Spring semester on the development of science-to-policy tools to advance the development of restoration aquaculture to enhance water quality in Florida and on governance issues associated with Florida’s wild oyster fishery.

Oyster gardening program in the tidally influenced interior canal system of Sanibel Island

In the restoration aquaculture space, the CPL worked with the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) to develop an experimental oyster gardening program in the Sanibel East End Canal System. Engineering graduate students Adrian Sakr and Julia Grisset focused their field efforts on identifying optimal canal locations to install and test experimental garden designs, while second year law students Jessica Roman and Megan Birnholz unpacked the regulatory issues associated with installing the gardens and drafting a model dock access and participation agreement between SCCF and interested canal front property owners. Upon announcing the Program, SCCF began receiving enthusiastic responses from interested homeowners. The Program will begin in the summer of 2022, and Sakr will remain involved as part of his dissertation research. 

Ecosystem service value for clams and oysters based on their nutrient uptake capacity

A second CPL restoration aquaculture project involved developing site specific science to quantify the ecosystem services provided by clams and oysters in the Tampa Bay area. Ph.D. students Hallie Fischmann and Justina Dacey worked with CCS affiliate and UF Professor Ashley Smyth and Florida Sea Grant Agent Angela Collins to understand the contribution of denitrification to nutrient uptake by bivalves in Bay waters. Law students Sarah Lucker and Patrick Kelly reviewed the policy levers available to create a payments for ecosystem services program to compensate clam and oyster farmers for cultivating these bivalves, including nutrient credit trading. The team was especially interested in exploring ways to tie urban stormwater contributions to the payment system through stormwater utilities and permits. The project is ongoing, and state funds have recently been allocated to ramp up restoration aquaculture in Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor.

Governance of wild oyster fisheries

One of the team projects supports the work of Professor Edward Camp and the UF/FWCC Oyster Restoration and Management Project, a multi-year grant funded effort to address governance of the oyster fishery in Florida. SNRE Master’s student Jamie Casteel developed a methodology to estimate the amount of oyster shell removed from the Suwannee Sound fishery on an annual basis. To assist in better understanding how the oyster fishery is managed in other states, the team conducted a multistate legal analysis led by second year law student Meredith Burgess. Third year law student Cole Thomas put his undergraduate history degree to good use, diving deep into the historical record to develop a fascinating timeline of oyster fishery law in Florida, one that predates statehood. The team was led by Camp’s Ph.D. student Chad Palmer whose Ph.D. research will focus on governance in the Florida oyster fishery. Palmer utilized his computer science skills to develop a map-based “Shiny” app to navigate the multi-state regulatory analysis and is tying the project together using a GIS-based Story Map framework. This product will be released later in the summer.