SHELLFISH AQUACULTURE EXTENSION SPECIALIST, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA/IFAS, GAINESVILLE
Sturmer, with a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University and a master’s from Auburn University, has been instrumental in the emergence of a $40-million clam industry in Cedar Key. After the gill net ban put many commercial mullet fishermen out of work, Sturmer worked with Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and NOAA to secure a grant to retrain the fishermen to farm clams. As the industry emerged, Sturmer helped set up an aquaculture certification program for students at Cedar Key High School. “In Cedar Key, where over 90% of the clam production occurs in the state, almost every school child is related to someone working in the industry.” Having the program “seems only fitting,” says Sturmer.
In 2017, Sturmer collaborated with local visitors bureaus and chambers of commerce in the Big Bend area to launch a tourism initiative, the Big Bend Shellfish Trail, which guides tourists to where they can buy, eat, and, in some places, harvest fresh shellfish (bay scallops, oysters, clams, stone crabs, blue crabs, shrimp). The trail has since expanded from a map of local businesses to an actual trail, which visitors can follow and become informed about the shellfisheries while visiting working waterfronts.