The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 41 - July 27, 2011

reel time

Sarasota Bay Watch launches new initiative

Reel time

Scallops still exist in Sarasota Bay as evidenced by Sarasota
Bay Watch's Scallop Search event in 2010. It is illegal to
harvest scallops in Sarasota Bay.

Sarasota Bay Watch, a non-profit 501c3 grass-roots, citizen-based organization has just announced an exciting new initiative with the Sarasota Yacht Club. Dubbed Scallopalooza-Repay the Bay, the initiative will be held at the Sarasota Yacht Club on Aug. 6. The dinner and auction is the kick-off event in a mission to restore bay scallops to Sarasota Bay.

Once plentiful on Florida's Gulf Coast from the panhandle to the Keys, local scallop populations declined and nearly disappeared during the 1970s. Likened to canaries in a mine, scallops are key indicators of water quality and are vulnerable to overharvesting, red tide, turbid water conditions and insufficient seagrass habitat. Residents that lived in the area before the collapse, like Rodney Potter, of Bradenton, remember scalloping, and recount cherished family memories of spending summer days on the grass flats collecting scallops. Potter has fond memories of using one of his mother's drawers, which he fitted with a glass bottom to locate the delicacies over the grass flats near Tidy Island in Sarasota Bay.

"I would float a washtub in an inner tube and fill it in an afternoon relates Potter. "When I had to take my little brother, I would put him in the washtub too."

According to John Ryan, a SBW board member and environmental professional who specializes in water quality, "Although scallops still live in Sarasota Bay, experts believe that the existing population is too sparse to repopulate the bay.The scallops are simply too far apart from one another to regenerate a self-sustaining population.

Marina biologists with Florida Fish and Wildlife, Mote Marine Laboratory and others have a documented studies showing that releasing spawned scallops from hatcheries will temporarily boost local scallop populations.

"Unlike snook or other popular sport fish, Florida does not have a fund for this activity," says Ryan, who is spearheading the project. "Sarasota Bay Watch wants to work with concerned citizens to restore scallops to a point at which they can once again thrive."

Ryan contacted Bay Shellfish Company in Palmetto which proposed producing about one million scallop larvae for $10,000.

When released into our healthy seagrass beds, Ryan anticipates that population can rebound. According to Ryan, "2011 is the first year Sarasota Bay Watch plans to conduct a scallop release, but not the last. Experts predict that it will require 10 years of releases to restore the population to a self-sustaining condition. Our objective for the communities that border Sarasota Bay is to find private donors to generate a minimum of $10,000 per year for 10 years to cover hatchery costs."

The Sarasota Yacht Club dinner will be an evening of dinner and drinks and a presentation by Potter of scalloping memories. The event also will feature scallop science and an auction. The Sarasota Yacht Club has a rich heritage in the Sarasota region, and will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 15 years. Organizers hope and intend that the SYC Centennial will include food from a legal recreational harvest of scallops from Sarasota Bay – thanks in no small part to the vision of Sarasota Bay Watch Commodore Jeff Birnbach and the SYC board of directors.

Check out Sarasota Bay Watch's new website at to sign up for the Scallopalooza event. While you're there, check out the group's signature event, the Fourth Annual Sarasota Bay Great Scallop Search, (see the next Reel Time) which will be held at the Mar Vista Restaurant and Dockside restaurant on Aug. 13. Sarasota Bay Watch offers family-friendly events to give people a chance to experience Sarasota Bay first hand. SBW is a pro-sportsmen, pro-business group that wants to assure future generations have a healthy and viable bay.

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