SARASOTA, Fla. (FOX 13) - When red tide hit Sarasota, it lingered for months. Larry Stults watched as it killed just about everything in the water.
"It really, essentially sterilized the bay. Very very few marine organisms survived the red tide," he said.
Stults is a volunteer and past president of Sarasota Bay Watch. He said recovery will take time.
"There's pretty much nothing left in the bay except for the fish which are returning from the Gulf of Mexico," he said.
Clams, however, managed to survive. Sarasota Bay Watch believes they're a key to keeping the bay clean.
Clams are filter feeders. They take in water pollutants and the red tide organism, karenia brevis. The bi-product is cleaner water.
"They help clarify the water. The reason why that’s important, reducing the nutrients, of course, will help mitigate the effects of red tide or maybe even eliminate red tide, eating phytoplankton includes eating red tide," said Stults.
Clams also promote seagrass growth and come with a lifespan of 30 years. The bigger they get, the more water they filter.
"This one might filter up to 50 gallons of water per day," he pointed out.
Sarasota Bay Watch relies on community donations and grants to run the program. They've raised and spent $50,000 and released nearly 400,000 clams into Bay Area waterways.
"It's people in the community coming together to take care of our own backyard," said Stults.
It's a grassroots movement to protect a large piece of paradise and everything that calls it home.
"The bay really is the heart of Sarasota and we felt like we needed to step up and do what we could to preserve and protect it," said Stults.
Sarasota Bay Watch holds regular cleanups. The next one will be on May 4 at 8:30 a.m at Sister Keys.
For more information visit https://sarasotabaywatch.org/.