The 2017 scallop season for St. Joseph Bay will be a bit longer than last year, though still shorter than seasons around the state.

The 2017 scallop season for St. Joseph Bay will be a bit longer than last year, though still shorter than seasons around the state.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission board of directors were to take up recommendations for the upcoming bay scallop season during a meeting Wednesday in Crystal River.

The meeting occurred after press time for this edition.

But among the recommendations from FWC staff is for the scallop season in St. Joseph Bay to begin July 25 and continue through Sept. 10.

The statewide season begins July 1 and continues until Sept. 24, though the FWC board will consider recommendations of season changes in other areas, according to spokeswoman Amanda Nalley.

As part of a “trial run,” Nalley said, the season calendar will also be tweaked for areas in Dixie and parts of Taylor counties, where the season will begin June 16 and continue until Sept. 10, Nalley said.

Locally, Gulf County officials have long urged the FWC to move the season back from July 1.

While the season is underway in St. Joseph Bay, the bag limit, which last year was 40 scallops per person or 200 per vessel, will return to statewide limits.

Those limits are two gallons whole scallops in the shell or one pint scallop meat per person with vessel limits of 10 gallons whole scallops in the shell or one-half gallon meat.

And, maybe most importantly for local officials, the FWC will continue restoration efforts in St. Joseph Bay.

The scallop population was in a decline before a red tide event late in 2015 impacted spawning, causing the population to “collapse.”

“We will also continue restoration efforts,” Nalley said. “(Those efforts) have done pretty well. We do know we will be caging more scallops.”

During the summer of 2016, as the scallop season was compressed to two weeks, the FWC undertook the caging of 1,200 adult scallops to foster spawning.

Scallops spawn in the water column; proximity is crucial.

“I think that is the win,” said Gulf Tourist Development Council executive director Jennifer Adams of the FWC decision to continue the restoration efforts.

“We have committed everything we can commit on that caging process, money and manpower.”

Another win for Adams is having a decision as early as possible.

Last year, with questions cropping up about the scallop season as early as April, a final decision was not made by the FWC board until the end of June, just as the season was to get underway.

And the impact was seen in tourism numbers that were down in July, the normal start for scallop season, back up in August during the season and then back down again in September when the season would normally have continued.

“It is much better this year,” Adams said. “This year I have time to get the message out.

“The communication with the FWC has been fantastic. I think overall it is very positive news.”

Nalley said the collaboration between state agency and local stakeholders, reflected in a series of town hall meetings last spring, has been critical.

“Having that kind of communication with the community there is really valuable to us,” Nalley said.