Tampa Bay Watch president Peter Clark announced Tuesday that the organization’s popular Great Bay Scallop Search will not take place this weekend — or at all.
Although it’s the environmental watchdog group’s most popular event, Clark said, the organization did not want to risk bringing people into contact with the lingering Red Tide algae bloom.
The bloom has not yet made it past Anna Maria Island just south of the mouth of the bay, but the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science has predicted it will eventually move north.
"In order to protect the health and safety of an anticipated 200 snorkelers in Lower Tampa Bay we are required to err on the side of caution and cancelled the event for 2018," Clark said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.
The annual event is a resource monitoring program where community volunteers snorkel to search for scallops in select areas within Boca Ciega Bay and Lower Tampa Bay. The event has been conducted annually since 1993 with the goal to monitor and document the health and status of the local bay scallop population. Forty volunteer boaters were scheduled to take snorkelers into the bay to search for elusive bay scallops.
Bay scallops disappeared from Tampa Bay in the early 1960s when the bay water was highly polluted from dredging operations and industrial and municipal waste. Tampa Bay’s water quality and seagrass beds have since improved to levels that will once again support the bay scallop population.