That was fast; again.
That was fast; again.
The 2017 scallop season for St. Joseph Bay ends Sunday after 16 days, the season shortened due to the presence of an algae bloom.
That is the second-straight season in St. Joseph Bay impacted by an algae bloom, though very distinctly different blooms.
Indications are that the season, while not long, was relatively bountiful.
Resident Herman Jones, an expert in local waters, said his three harvest days were pretty good; not overwhelming, but he found his limit each day.
“I was surprised there were as many as there were, not huge numbers, but they were out there,” Jones said, adding that the meat inside the shell was what stood out.
“Some of them were monsters,” he said.
Bobby Scarbrough from Bluewater Outriggers said staff at the store had received similar reports.
“Word so far is there have been good results,” Scarbrough indicated in his fishing report for the week. “We also understand that the meat has been good size.”
Port St. Joe City Commissioner David Ashbrook said during last week’s budget hearing that reports from vacationers at the Port Inn had also been positive.
“They say they have found them in pretty good numbers and in good size,” Ashbrook said. “The reports I have heard indicate they should start the season late every year.”
That was a central argument from many residents and locals who enjoy the bay during a series of town hall meetings in 2016 when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was weighing closing the bay for the entire scallop season.
Many residents said the season, which begins statewide in late June, should be moved back and not open until at least late July, if not early August.
“The season should be later,” Jones said.
In 2016, the bay scallop population was impacted by a late 2015 outbreak of red tide, or karenia brevis, during the period of juvenile recruitment.
The algae bloom, FWC researchers believe, was the culprit in the “collapse” of the population due to insufficient spawning.
After initially signaling it might close the bay to scalloping for the summer, the FWC ultimately compressed the season to 14 days and imposed size limits.
The algae bloom of 2017, Pseudo-nitzschia, is different from karenia brevis in the way it impacts scallops.
FWC researchers said the Pseudo-nitzschia should not impact the scallop population.
Instead, the bloom, in roughly 50 percent of outbreaks, results in production of a domoic acid which is potentially harmful to humans after consumption of contaminated shellfish.
St. Joseph Bay is the only location in Florida where the FWC has closed an area to shellfish harvesting due to a domoic acid outbreak due to Pseudo-nitzschia.
That has occurred three times in the past four years, but this year’s outbreak was the first to occur within scallop season.
At the time the outbreak was first found, late July, FWC researchers said it would likely be six to eight weeks before the water and scallops cleared of contamination.
It was, almost to the day, eight weeks before sampling cleared sufficiently to open the bay to scalloping.
As the scallop season closes, the FWC’s restoration efforts will continue.
Those efforts began last summer with the caging of scallops to facilitate more efficient spawning; scallops spawn within the water column so proximity is everything.
The restoration appeared to make inroads over 2016 as the adult survey in spring of this year showed the population had increased three-fold, though it remains a distance from full health.