by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News Editor
Traveling the two-lane highway leading onto Cedar Key, Southern Cross Sea Farms stands as a shining star for lovers of great seafood. Their alter piled high with some of the best tasting clams raised and harvested in the Gulf of Mexico.
A vertically integrated clam business, Southern Cross Sea Farms is one of the largest clam growers in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2009, Jonathan Gill and his brother-in-law Shawn Stephenson purchased the business from Captain Bill Leeming who came up with the name while travelling the Caribbean. On a clear, starry night, Leeming looked up and saw the Southern Cross constellation.
Gill and Stephenson jumped into the clam industry after gillnet fishing was outlawed in the state of Florida more than 20 years ago.
“My dad owned a fish house and I fished for him as a gill netter until 1994 when they banned the nets in state waters,” said Gill, whose father Bob Gill is a Florida Board member of the Gulf Seafood Institute. “I took advantage of a state program designed to retrain gillnet fishermen as clam famers.”