Time to round ‘em up in order to preserve them.
Bay scallops that is, out of St. Joseph Bay, and destined for cages in the middle of the bay as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission continues population restoration efforts now in their third year.
The FWC will host the inaugural “Scallop Rodeo” in the bay this weekend, inviting members of the community to assist in bringing back to life a population deemed to have “collapsed” in 2016.
Check-in begins at four locations at 7 a.m. ET.
The locations are the Highland View Public boat ramp, the boat ramp at Frank Pate Park, Presnell’s Marina in Simmons Bayou and T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.
Participants must check in and will receive a waiver allowing them out on the water to collect scallops.
All scallops, which must be kept alive in a bucket of water and volunteers are limited to 50 scallops per person.
Live scallops must be brought to the check-in location by 6 p.m. ET.
Volunteers can wade into the bay to hunt or go out by boat.
There will be plenty of law enforcement on hand, shore and water; if a volunteer checks in, receives their waiver and does not check back in law enforcement will be notified.
Anyone on or in the water in possession of scallops must have a waiver.
The effort is an enlargement of what has occurred each of the past two years as FWC researchers, staff from the Tourist Development Council, and selected volunteers collected scallops prior to the opening of the harvest season.
Those scallops have either been caged or sent to a hatchery.
“We have been doing a similar event the past two years on a smaller scale and we decided to open it up,” said Jennifer Granneman, a scallop researcher with the FWC’s research institute in St. Petersburg.
“We also initiated the scallop sitter program which has been very successful. I’ve been extremely impressed with the community’s engagement in our restoration efforts.”
The sitter program involved local volunteers who maintained and monitored caged scallops during the spawning season.
And there has been much success, at least in terms of scallops collected.
Last year, 2,500 scallops were collected from St. Joseph Bay and, combined with similar efforts in St. Andrews Bay, the number of healthy scallops increased by more than 5,000.
“They doubled our population,” Granneman said.
Two weeks ago there was a “scallop rodeo” in St. Andrews Bay.
“We had a good turnout,” said Granneman, adding the effort resulted in the collection of 500 scallops.
Scallops are caged to facilitate spawning.
Scallops spawn in the water column, the close proximity is believed to foster better spawning results.
The scallop harvest season in St. Joseph Bay, the last to open this year as the state focuses on regionally-centric seasons, will begin Aug. 17.
The extent of the traction restoration efforts have made the past two years will be known in the next two weeks.
“It’s still too early to tell,” Granneman said.
With the season pushed back into August, researchers, she said, were able to perform more extensive surveys of St. Joseph Bay.
Those adult population surveys are typically completed in June.
The results of those surveys, she added, should be posted no later than the end of next week.
In the first year, there was traction, though as Granneman noted, the count had nowhere to go but up after the collapse in 2016.
Surveys last year indicated the adult population had increased three-fold: again, after beginning near zero.