There was a sliver a hope early last week; three days later it was eclipsed.

There was a sliver a hope early last week; three days later it was eclipsed.

And that could mean an end to any thought of a 2017 scallop season in St. Joseph Bay, with the season initially scheduled to close this weekend and all harvest areas in the state closed in two weeks.

And, who can tell the impact of Hurricane Irma in the equation.

In any case, water and scallop sampling completed in St. Joseph Bay last Monday showed that contamination from an acid produced by a naturally-occuring algae bloom had dropped below “federal action levels,” according to Amanda Nalley with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

That began a seven-day clock that, in theory, could have led to consideration of opening the season should testing one week later show contamination levels below federal limits.

However, the week’s second round of testing, on Thursday, showed the contamination levels in scallops at one collection site had gone up above those federal limits, wiping out the clock and returning the entire situation to square one.

Water samples collected showed only low levels of Pseudo-nitzschia, the algae bloom that can, roughly half the time, including the bay this year, cause the creation of domoic acid.

Researchers were scheduled to pull scallops from the bay this past Tuesday for testing, with the results available out of the FWC’s St. Petersburg lab the following day.

Of note, domoic acid levels in pen shells southwest of St. Joseph Point have remained above federal limits.

Contamination levels in all four scallop collection sites must come back below federal limits in at least two rounds of testing seven days apart in order for the FWC to even entertain opening the bay for scallop harvest.

“The FWC will be working closely with state and local partners on potential options for the 2017 season and I can’t speculate at this point what will happen beyond that,” Nalley said. “Our partners that we are working with include Gulf County, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Department of Health.”

The FWC, she added, will continue its routine monitoring of the bay.

The Gulf County scallop season was originally to begin July 25 and end Sunday.

The local season was postponed when testing on the weekend prior to July 25 showed the presence of Pseudo-nitzschia as well as contamination from domoic acid.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services closed the bay to harvesting of oysters, clams and mussels and the FWC followed suit on scallops after additional testing.

The scallop season ends Sept. 24 in other state harvesting areas.

The 2017 scallop saga followed a 2016 season which was compressed to just two weeks after the scallop population was classified as “collapsed” in April.

The decline was attributed to a red tide bloom in late 2015 which negatively impacted juvenile recruitment.

The FWC initially considered cancelling the season, but after feedback during a series of local town hall meetings, the staff recommendation adopted by the board was for a two-week season with bag limits.

In hindsight, it is worth noting that there were several local voices in support of closing the season, for at least one year, maybe two, given a trend over the previous five years of declining population numbers.

Comments on this newspaper’s online platforms seem to lean toward leaving the scallop population alone until next year in hopes that a rebound will continue.

Following restoration efforts in 2016, including caging 2,600 scallops to facilitate more efficient spawning, improved three-fold during FWC spring surveys.