Scallops transplanted to bay
CINDY LANE | SUN
Steve Traves, of AMI Outfitters in Anna Maria, took
baby scallops for a paddleboard ride on Friday, Oct. 11,
where they were released from their buckets
into Sarasota Bay.
LONGBOAT KEY – At the bottom of a white bucket, they look like coarse sand, until one of them squirts itself to the other side of the bucket.
The tiny juvenile scallops checked out the real estate at the bottom of five buckets on Friday, Oct. 11, while Sarasota Bay Watch volunteers readied several boats to take them to their new homes in the shady seagrass beds of Perico Bay and off Long Bar Pointe.
It was the first juvenile scallop release for the grassroots, not-for-profit group, which has previously released only scallop larvae, which looks like fine sand. Last year, the group released 24 million larvae and this year, they have released 21 million so far, with a goal of 30 million for 2013.
It’s an expensive proposition, according to Larry Stults, president of Sarasota Bay Watch, which buys five-week-old scallop larvae from the Bay Shellfish Co. in Terra Ceia. The 10-week-old juveniles cost more, so the group ordered only 100,000 of them, in hopes of discovering whether larger scallops would have a better chance of surviving predators.
At the juvenile stage of the scallops’ lives, they already have begun developing the scalloped shell that made them famous.
Like baby sea turtles released from buckets, the percentage of them that will make it to adulthood is low – less than 1 percent, Stults estimated.
To increase their odds, the group “plants” the scallops on the bay bottom using a funnel to protect them from voracious schools of pinfish that otherwise swarm them like locusts as they sink into their new homes.
Sarasota Bay Watch is at the forefront of local scallop restoration, releasing the blue-eyed bivalves in different parts of the bay – the locations are kept under wraps since scalloping is illegal in Manatee County.
They also track their survival rate, hosting a scallop search each year with volunteers scouring pre-determined sectors of the bay for scallops and scallop shells. This year, 11 scallops were found, compared to 93 last year and a high of 947 the first year of the search, 2008.
The efforts to re-establish scallops are aimed at one day ending the prohibition on harvesting.
For more information, visit www.sarasotabaywatch.org.