A Record High 624 Scallops Found in Annual Search
TIERRA VERDE – Forty boats with over 150 volunteer snorkelers participated in the Great Bay Scallop Search on Saturday, August 16, by searching selected sites in Lower Tampa Bay for the bay scallop.
Volunteers found only one live scallop in 2005 due to the severe red tide, 17.5 were found in 2006 and 555 were found in 2007. This year’s final count of 624 scallops is a promising sign attributed to twenty-five years of water quality improvements and habitat restoration efforts in our region. Additionally, out of 70 blocks surveyed, 33 contained scallops according to Kevin Misiewicz, Environmental Specialist with Tampa Bay Watch. This widespread coverage indicates that water quality to support scallops is growing in Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay Watch and Tampa Bay Estuary Program have sponsored this resource monitoring program annually since 1993. The purpose of Scallop Search is to monitor and document the health and status of the bay scallop population. Bay scallops, or the Argopecten irradians disappeared from Tampa Bay in the 1960s when the bay water was highly polluted from dredging operations and industrial and municipal wastes. Tampa Bay’s water quality and seagrass beds have since improved to levels that will once again the bay scallop population.
The Great Bay Scallop Search is Tampa Bay Watch's most popular volunteer event. Not only does it offer the opportunity to bring attention to the bay's valuable resources, but it also promotes hands-on volunteerism and education to families and residents of the estuary. Many first time as well as "seasoned" scallop searchers commented on the exciting bay wildlife they see under the water during the event. Even if a search team does not find their elusive scallop prey, fun is always had by all!
Bay scallops are secretive bivalves in the same family as clams and oysters. They may reach a shell size of two inches and spend most of their short 12 to 18 month life span hiding in sea grasses of waters like Tampa Bay. Scallops are filter feeders, therefore they are highly sensitive to changes in water quality and can be used to measure an ecosystem’s health and signal changes in water quality. Bay scallops are vulnerable to changes in water temperature and salinity. Adult bay scallops can pump as much as 15.5 quarts of water per hour. Tampa Bay Watch, Mote Marine Laboratory and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation are working to increase the bay scallops in our area by raising scallops in laboratories and releasing the juveniles into the Bay. Although bay scallops are edible, it is illegal to harvest scallops in Tampa Bay in order for restoration efforts to be successful.
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