Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hunting for scallops

FWRI

FWRI

TIERRA VERDE — Organizers don't know what to expect when hundreds of snorkelers hit the water Saturday to look for scallops.

"We have had some really good years, and others … they have been hard to find," said Peter Clark, president of Tampa Bay Watch, sponsor of the Great Bay Scallop Search. "But one thing is for sure. The water quality in the bay is the best it's been since the 1950s."

Tampa Bay once had a thriving bay scallop fishery. That was before decades of habitat destruction and unregulated pollution nearly wiped out the population. But thanks to strict water quality regulations and the efforts of nonprofit groups such as Tampa Bay Watch, scallops have made a dramatic comeback.

"They are often likened to the canary in the coal mine," said Clark, who organized the first scallop search in 1993. "They are the first organism that will tell you something is wrong with an estuary."

In 1994, with scallop stocks declining, state officials shut down the commercial season everywhere and shut down the recreational season south of the Suwannee River. That included Crystal River and Homosassa, once among the state's best scallop spots.

But in 2001, state officials reopened the area between the Suwannee and the Pasco-Hernando county line because stocks had recovered. Scalloping, however, was still prohibited south of the Pasco-Hernando county line, which included Tampa Bay.

Researchers from USF and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's research institute in St. Petersburg have had aggressive restocking, or "seeding," programs in place for more than a decade. The only way to find out if they were working was to send volunteer snorkelers into the bay to count scallops. That is where Tampa Bay Watch comes in.

"In 2009, we had a banner year with volunteers counting 674 scallops," Clark said. "But in 2013, they found only 51, and we aren't quite sure why."

Scallops need a mixture of saltwater and freshwater to survive. If rains are heavy — for example, when hurricanes strike — too much freshwater can flood the bay and wipe out a crop. If the water is too salty, they won't survive either.

Scallops do best in water with a salinity of 20 parts per thousand. The Gulf of Mexico is about 35 parts per thousand. If too much freshwater gets bottled up in the bay, they won't survive. That is why most scallops are found west of the Skyway.

"Things are really looking up for the bay," Clark said. "Between 1999 and 2008, we gained about 5,000 acres of seas grasses back. Then between 2008 and 2012 we gained another 5,000."

That is good news not only for scallop lovers, but anglers. The same habi­tat scallops need is ideal for snook, redfish and trout.

While the harvest of scallops is still prohibited in Tampa Bay, the waters off Homosassa, Crystal River and Steinhatchee are still open. The season runs through Sept. 24.

>>Fast facts

Bay scallop

Scientific name: Argopecten irradians

Distribution: Florida's west coast and as far north as West Palm Beach on the east coast

Size: Fully grown, about 2 inches

Habitat: Grass beds and shallow waters of estuaries

Life span: 12-18 months; some clam species can live 40 years

Function: An adult pumps nearly 15 liters of water per hour through its body. Water carrying food and oxygen comes in. Water that has been "cleansed" goes out.

Source: Tampa Bay Watch

Great Bay Scallop Search

When: 9 a.m. to noon Saturday

Where: Fort De Soto Park boat ramp

Details: tampabaywatch.org.

Hunting for scallops 08/21/14 [Last modified: Thursday, August 21, 2014 11:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays' Evan Longoria: "We have all the belief in the world in here"

    Blogs

    The weekend sweep by Texas and four-game overall losing streak has some Rays fans - based on their tweets and emails - questioning the team's ability to make the playoffs and suggesting they might as well trade away their key parts.

  2. What are the odds the Rays trade for Brad Hand or Pat Neshek?

    Blogs

    In each of the last three seasons, the Rays have been sellers at the trade deadline. They shipped away David Price in 2014, got rid of David DeJesus and Kevin Jepsen in 2015 and flipped Matt Moore, Steve Pearce and Brandon Guyer in 2016.

    Padres left-hander Brad Hand has excelled in his two years with the team.
  3. Gerald McCoy cares too much about what you think of him

    The Heater

    Gerald McCoy is right. We are going to miss him when he's gone.

    Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is one of 16 players to record at least five sacks in each of the past five seasons. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. Ronde Barber says comments about McCoy 'sensationalized'

    Blogs

    If anyone thinks Ronde Barber was throwing shade at Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, think again.

    "That anyone would assume I would say the best player on the defense isn’t a bad dude is irresponsible and sensationalizing a quote to serve their own means,'' Ronde Barber said.
  5. USA Today sees Bucs as 10-6 wild card team in 2017

    Blogs

    Another day, another national outlet making NFL predictions, and this one is promising for Tampa Bay fans, as USA Today's Nate Davis has the Bucs going 10-6 and making the …

    Bucs DT Gerald McCoy tries to bring down Giants QB Eli Manning in a 2015 game. Tampa Bay and New York are both picked to finish 10-6 in USA Today's preseason predictions, both making the playoffs as wild cards.