Coastal waters in Gulf County felt the impact of a significant red tide event during the last months of 2015 and into early 2016, but the impacts could be felt for years.
It was certainly a hot topic in April when staff and researchers announced a recommendation to the board of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to consider closing St. Joseph Bay during the bay scallop season.
This, naturally, went over like a lead balloon locally, particularly after the daily newspaper in Tallahassee reported that the bay was to be closed to all activities due to red tide.
The red tide had been severe, but had also dissipated months before.
The response was extraordinary, with the FWC quickly back-tracking on announcing a closure of the scallop season and convening two town hall meetings in the spring to keep locals informed of what was happening and options under consideration.
And the opinion of locals was rather sharply divided, with many supporting a full closure to allow the scallop population to rebound while others decried closure of any sort, arguing the bay would never re-open.
In the end, the FWC board approved a compressed two-week season that ended on Labor Day.
The impact on local tourism was reflected in bed tax receipts, which during an otherwise strong year, dipped during the late summer months.
The FWC also diverted funds for bay scallop restoration in Bay County to St. Joseph Bay for at least the short-term.
Scallops were collected and caged to facilitate more robust spawning this winter and into spring and monitoring continues of the juvenile recruitment.
But it remains an unknown as 2017 arrives what, if any, sort of scallop season will be seen this summer in St. Joseph Bay.