Sixth Annual Scallop Search this weekend
rusty chinnis | submitted
Scallop searchers work a transect near Sister Keys
during last year’s scallop search.
Sarasota Bay Watch is hosting its signature event, the Sixth Annual Sarasota Bay Scallop Search, Aug. 17 at the Mar Vista Dockside restaurant on Longboat Key.
The search follows on the heels of their annual Scallopalooza fund raiser at the Sarasota Yacht Club that this year broke all records, amassing over $30,000 to fund scallop restoration in Sarasota Bay. The search accomplishes two important goals of the group by helping scientists to monitor the abundance of scallops in bay waters and by raising public awareness of the importance of water quality and habitat.
Members of each group will be given an instruction booklet to complete with information on their search. In addition, they will receive a five gallon bucket that holds the tools to complete a sample. Each bucket contains a 50-meter (150 feet) line with a buoy at each end.
Swimmers stretch the line out in their transect and swim down both sides with a PVC pipe one meter long. This allows participants to cover 100 square meters per transect. These search areas when combined can then be extrapolated to provide a good idea of the abundance of scallops in the bay in general.
The search areas have been broken up into three sections – north, middle and south – thanks to the efforts of Ayres Associates and Shafer Consulting. The total area to be searched spans from the intersection of Anna Maria Sound near Tampa Bay to the St. Armand, Lido area just north of New Pass.
Over the past decade, water quality has improved and sea grass beds have expanded as many outdated sewage outfalls have been removed and stormwater run-off has begun to be managed. It is hoped that the searches will show a gradual increase in the numbers of scallops, although there are a huge number of variables that could affect the outcome. It wasn’t always this way in Sarasota Bay.
Rodney Potter, of Bradenton, didn’t have to organize a search to find scallops in the ‘60s and early ‘70s. All he did was put a galvanized wash tub in an inner tube, add his two young daughters and wade out in the grass beds. There were so many scallops then that the problem was where to put everything.
Their tiny legs wouldn’t reach bottom on the flat he was wading, but they were eager to examine the scallops as they filled the tub. They also delighted at starfish, sea horses and other wonders that their father pulled from the verdant grass beds. Many days Potter would have to walk them back and deposit them on shore as the wash tub filled with the blue eyed bi-valves.
It was obvious talking to Potter that searching for scallops in Sarasota created fond memories, the kind that last a lifetime and span generations.
Scallops aren’t plentiful now, but somehow they have managed to hang on and reproduce, despite the loss of habitat and water quality that was so prevalent from the late ‘60s through the early ‘70s. That’s why members of Sarasota Bay Watch are so excited about their scallop restoration plans, an excitement that is shared by volunteers and sponsors alike. Many of the same people participate in this event year after year and have great hopes for the future.
The Anna Maria Island Sun and The Chiles Group have been long time supporters of this event. Other sponsors include Mote Marine, Ayres and Associates and Schafer Consulting. There are also new participants like the Carefree Learner (their second year) which will help transport people without boats, allowing them to get on the water.
Participants will meet at the Mar Vista restaurant at 760 Broadway Street on Longboat Key at 8:30 a.m. for a captain’s meeting. The search begins at 9 a.m. sharp and ends around 12:30 p.m. with a complimentary lunch courtesy of the Mar Vista restaurant.
Come by boat to the Mar Vista dock or launch nearby at the Coquina Beach Boat Ramp. If you’re coming by car you may park on the streets in Longboat Key Village where parking is allowed. Please try not to park in the restaurant parking lot and please park considerately in the Village.
Searchers are reminded that this is a no harvest event and are encouraged to bring sunscreen, hats, dive gloves, mask, snorkel, water and shoes. Fins and weight belts are recommended, but are optional. Kayaks are welcome.
Registration is required. To sign up go to http://sarasotabaywatch.org/event-sign-up/scallop-search/captain-registration/ or call 941-918-2700.