Scallop searchers find fewer in bay
A closeup showing the blue eyes of a bay scallop.
True to predictions, Sarasota Bay scallop numbers are down this year compared to 2008, according to the results of the Second Annual Sarasota Bay Great Scallop Search.
During the Sarasota Bay Watch event on Saturday, 170 people on 50 boats found 131 scallops in the bay, down from about 900 scallops last year, the group’s first annual search. The event is patterned after the Tampa Bay Watch Great Bay Scallop Search, which has been conducted since 1993.
Recent surveys of areas with known scallop populations throughout Florida indicate lower overall numbers than last year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Scientists at Saturday’s event said that despite the lower numbers, the widespread distribution of the scallops in the bay is encouraging, according to Sandy Gilbert, a director of Sarasota Bay Watch and president of START (Solutions To Avoid Red Tide).
This year's count possibly was affected by runoff from recent rains that created turbid water, making the search more difficult, observers said.
One of the first species to be affected by pollution from runoff, scallops indicate the health of bay waters.
At the event’s launch site, the Sarasota Outboard Club on City Island, volunteers reported finding clams, whelks and other shelled creatures, but many scallop searchers said they failed to locate a single one of the blue-eyed bivalves.
Volunteer Dinah Frazier, of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s waste management program, was an exception – she found two juvenile scallops attached to shoal grass, a type of seagrass. Her snorkeling partner, Manatee County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker, found several whelks and tulip snails.
Scallops are not allowed to be harvested in Sarasota Bay. State regulations allow recreational harvesting of scallops only in state waters north of the Pasco-Hernando County border and east of the western bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County from July 1 to Sept. 10. The sale of bay scallops harvested from Florida waters is prohibited.
For more information on Sarasota Bay Watch, visit www.sarasotabaywatch.org.