On the Gulf Coast of Florida, Two Docks Shellfish specializes in growing hard clams as their main focus. They also cultivate Skyway Sweet Oysters and Sunray Venus Clams. Sunrays are unique to the central and southern gulf coast of Florida, making the farm’s Tampa Bay location an ideal site for farming the shellfish.
Sunrays are challenging to grow, due to a thinner shell and a distinctive pattern that makes them more susceptible to predators. Despite the growing challenges, the clams have a sought-after flavor similar to conch that is popular with buyers and seafood lovers.
A Focus on Sustainability
Founder Aaron Welch III knows the importance of sustainability to any aquaculture operation. A Florida native, he has an M.S. in Aquaculture and a Ph.D. in Ecosystem Science and Policy from the University of Miami. He continues to serve there as an adjunct professor in the aquaculture program. He credits a combination of formal education and growing up on the water with sparking his interest in sustainable aquaculture.
“Our farm environment makes the bay better. When we’re done decades from now, no one will know we were here. Aquaculture actively improves the water quality,” said Welch, “The filter feeding, stabilized sediment, and increased seagrass present on our property are key to producing a sustainable and bay-enhancing product.” The bags and cages that shellfish are raised in also provide an added habitat for fish and other species in the bay.
From Farm to Table
What began as a father-son hobby is now a fully fledged operation, including a hatchery and nursery. When the company's clam seed is large enough it will be moved from the hatchery and raised in the nursery. These clams will be moved a final time out to the farm site in the bay where the shellfish will remain until they are harvested for market.
Although they have a sizable operation, Two Docks Shellfish prefers to focus on providing their shellfish to local markets in the Bradenton and Tampa Bay area. They serve 20 nearby restaurants and continue to build partnerships within the community. When COVID-19 interrupted the restaurant industry, the farm temporarily offered local delivery in the Tampa area and pickup at select retail stores.
A middle neck clam can filter up to 10 gallons of water a day. Oysters can filter up to 50 gallons.
Recipe: Clams and Sausage
This flavorful recipe is a new twist on surf and turf that brings together buttery clams and hearty sausage.
- 2 dozen clams
- 1 lb spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 14 oz. can of tomatoes, diced
- ½ bottle (about 4 oz.) clam juice
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- Splash of white wine
- Bunch of parsley, chopped
- 1–2 tablespoons butter
- 1–2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and fresh ground pepper
- In a skillet, drizzle in olive oil and cook the sausage on medium-high heat. Break it up into smaller pieces and cook through, then remove from pan and set aside.
- Add a little more olive oil into the skillet, then add in the garlic and onions and saute until soft.
- Stir the clams in with the garlic and onions.
- Stir in the white wine and allow to cook down for 1–2 minutes.
- Add in the tomatoes and cooked sausage; stir to combine. Then cover the skillet so the clams can steam.
- When clams have all opened, mix in the butter and chopped parsley. Discard any clams that did not open. Season with salt and pepper; garnish with parsley.
Sustainable Seafood from Tide to Table
The Tide to Table series profiles members of the aquaculture community, who provide valuable jobs and increase access to fresh, sustainably sourced American seafood. Aquaculture is about more than seafood production. It is about ecosystem stewardship, coastal communities, and economic opportunities.