Reel Time: Scallop Search Aug. 24

Reel Time: Scallop Search Aug. 24
The Scallop Search is a great opportunity for families to spend a day on the water helping the bay. - Rusty Chinnis | Sun

Sarasota Bay Watch’s annual Scallop Search, its signature and longest-standing event, is slated for Saturday, Aug. 24, at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron on City Island. This free event engages the public in what has been called citizen science because it assists scientists with monitoring the scallops in Sarasota Bay. The search is a boating event, but Sarasota Bay Watch (SBW) will try to place non-boaters on boats when possible.

Over the years this event has been conducted in cooperation with other groups in Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound to assess the health of scallops in southwest Florida. This year, Sarasota Bay Watch will also be assessing our local clam population after the successful release of 250,000 clams last year. The bay is still recovering from last year’s devastating red tide, so your participation will help answer the question “How’s our bay today?”

Over the last several years, SBW has gotten invaluable support from The Anna Maria Island Sail and Power Squadron (America’s Boating Club of the Bradenton area). The Squadron’s focus is boating education and civic service to groups like SBW. It is currently creating a life preserver loan program for boaters and conducts vessel safety checks.

Janet Razze, the commander of the group, has organized the squadron and other volunteers to monitor Palma Sola Bay and north Sarasota Bay. Razze and the group begin early, actively looking for scallops and clams in a two- to three-week window before the actual event. This allows more people to be involved as it allows them to work around weather and people’s availability. They then have their data ready to share on the 24th. If you would like to participate with the squadron give Razze a call at 941- 779-5477. Participants will still need to go online to register.

To assess populations, a grid is constructed that covers the bay and volunteers snorkel transects for scallops and clams to document their presence. The Scallop Search was originally initiated with support provided by Tampa Bay Watch. The goal of the event is to monitor and document the health and status of scallops, clams and the bay in general. Data goes to the Florida Wildlife Research Institute.

This event is a perfect family activity. Searching requires swimming and snorkeling abilities. It is done over the grass flats usually in six feet of water or less. There will be a complimentary lunch for volunteers after the search at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron on City Island. This is a No Harvest event.

Participants will need to bring a mask and snorkel, sunscreen, water, and (optional) a weight belt. Fins are helpful, and divers should bring a dive flag if they have one. The only other requirements are good eyes and a great spirit! Registration is required, so go to www.sarasotabaywatch.org for more information.

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