Seventh Annual Scallop Search a Successful "Sell Out"
SUN PHOTO | RUSTY CHINNIS
Participants at the Scallop Search.
The Seventh Annual Sarasota Bay Great Scallop Search was conducted on Saturday August 23, 2014 with the largest crowd of volunteers to date. The event was a sellout of well over one hundred participants who surveyed areas of Sarasota Bay from New Pass to Ann Maria Sound. During the morning count, forty live scallops were found, a big increase over eleven that were located last year.
Teams of searchers deployed transect lines in various parts of the bay and then snorkeled along the lines to look for the blue eyed mollusks. Based out of the Mar Vista Restaurant in the Longbeach Village, the event helps scientists to get an idea of the population dynamics of scallops which were once prolific in Sarasota Bay. Through a number of factors including pollution and habitat loss scallops all but disappeared from bay waters after the late 1960's.
Building on a yearly event held by our northern environmental neighbor Tampa Bay Watch (TBW), Sarasota Bay Watch (SBW) adopted the event with the help of TBW to expand the reach of the effort. In addition, Sarasota Bay Watch has been seeding the bay with Scallops for the last three years in an attempt to help rebuild stocks to a point that they may once again be able to reproduce naturally in greater numbers. Although there are many factors that affect the health of these mollusks (storms, water salinity, red tide, predation) it is hoped that the yearly efforts to introduce scallops into the bay may "jump start" a new self-sustaining population. The yearly fund raising event Scallopalooza reported in last week's issue now has the assets to continue the efforts. Scientist from the State and Mote Marine Laboratory are helping to determine recruitment success using standard and larval spat collectors.
The use of community volunteers, organizations like SBW and local high school students working with scientists has been deemed "Citizen Science" a new program that is being carried out under the auspices of Mote Marine Laboratory. Aware of SBW's ground breaking work, Mote helped launch an innovative scallop project for Sarasota Bay that involved international and local research institutions including Sarasota Bay Watch, The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Mote helped SBW with a science-based restoration strategy building on results of previous monitoring and restoration activities including efforts in Pine Island Sound. Hopefully this year's increase in the scallop numbers is a positive step in that direction. Organizers of the search are particularly thankful for the continued help of the Mar Vista and the Chiles Group who graciously fed more volunteers this year than were planned for. The payoff will hopefully come when there is a possibility of an open season on scallops in Sarasota Bay in the future
In other searches four scallops were found in Charlotte Harbor on July 26th, 40 scallops were found in Pine Island Sound on August the 23rd and 109 were found in Tampa Bay on August 23rd doubling their count from 2013. For more information on Sarasota Bay Watch and to get involved, go to www.sarasotabaywatch.org.