We used to find them here. I have heard stories of folks who could fill a 5-gallon bucket with them in about 30 minutes right by Morgan Park. An old shrimper told me that back in the day when shrimping in Santa Rosa Sound they often found scallops along the points. They would drop a grab and collect them for sale. This was when both commercial scallop harvest, and shrimping, were allowed in Santa Rosa Sound. Neither are today. There are numerous tales of large beds of scallops in Big Lagoon and scientific reports of their presence in both locations and in Little Sabine. I myself have found them at Naval Live Oaks, Shoreline Park, Big Sabine, and in Big Lagoon.
Bay scallops need turtle grass to survive.
Photo: UF IFAS
But that was a long time ago. The reports suggest the decline began in the 1960s and today it is rare to find one. What happen is hard to say but most believe it began with a decline in water quality. A decrease in salinity and an increase in nutrients from stormwater runoff degraded the environment for both the scallops and the turtle seagrass they depend on. Overharvesting certainly played a role.
But they are not all gone. There is still turtle grass in our system and occasionally reports of scallops. They are trying to hang on. There have also been attempts to improve water quality by modifying how stormwater is discharged into our bay, though there is much more to do there. Each year Florida Sea Grant Agents at our local county extension offices provide volunteers an opportunity to survey our bay for both species. We have a program called “Eyes on Seagrass” where volunteers monitor sites with seagrass once a month from April through October. We partner with Dr. Jane Caffrey from the University of West Florida to assess this. We also hold our annual “Pensacola Bay Scallop Search” each July.
In the Scallop Search volunteers will snorkel four different 50-meter transects lines either in Santa Rosa Sound or Big Lagoon searching for scallops. These surveys are conducted at the end of July. There are 11 survey grids in Big Lagoon and 55 in Santa Rosa Sound extending from Gulf Breeze to Navarre. To volunteer you will need a team of at least three people and your own snorkel gear. Some locations do require a boat to access. If you are interested in searching along the north shore of Santa Rosa Sound contact Chris Verlinde at firstname.lastname@example.org (850-623-3868). If you are interested in searching along the south shore of Santa Rosa Sound, or Big Lagoon, contact Rick O’Connor at email@example.com (850-475-5230).
Volunteers conducting the great scallop search.
Photo: Molly O’Connor
Reminder, harvesting scallops in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties is still illegal. Please give them a chance to recover.
The University of Florida/IFAS Extension faculty are reintroducing their acclaimed “Panhandle Outdoors LIVE!” series. Conservation lands and aquatic systems have vulnerabilities and face future threats to their ecological integrity. Come learn about the important role of these ecosystems.
The St. Joseph Bay and Buffer Preserve Ecosystems are home to some of the one richest concentrations of flora and fauna along the Northern Gulf Coast. This area supports an amazing diversity of fish, aquatic invertebrates, turtles, salt marshes and pine flatwoods uplands.
This one-day educational adventure is based at the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve near the coastal town of Port. St. Joe, Florida. It includes field tours of the unique coastal uplands and shoreline as well as presentations by area Extension Agents.
Registration fee is $45.
Meals: breakfast, lunch, drinks & snacks provided (you may bring your own)
Attire: outdoor wear, water shoes, bug spray and sun screen
*if afternoon rain is in forecast, outdoor activities may be switched to the morning schedule
Space is limited! Register now! See below.
All Times Eastern
8:00 – 8:30 am Welcome! Breakfast & Overview with Ray Bodrey, Gulf County Extension
8:30 – 9:35 am Diamondback Terrapin Ecology, with Rick O’Connor, Escambia County Extension
9:35 – 9:45 am Q&A
9:45- 10:20 am The Bay Scallop & Habitat, with Ray Bodrey, Gulf County Extension
10:20 – 10:30 am Q&A
10:30 – 10:45 am Break
10:45 – 11:20 am The Hard Structures: Artificial Reefs & Marine Debris, with Scott Jackson, Bay County Extension
11:20 – 11:30 am Q&A
11:30 – 12:05 am The Apalachicola Oyster, Then, Now and What’s Next, with Erik Lovestrand, Franklin County Extension
12:05 – 12:15 pm Q&A
12:15 – 1:00 pm Lunch
1:00 – 2:30 pm Tram Tour of the Buffer Preserve (St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve Staff)
2:30 – 2:40 pm Break
2:40 – 3:20 pm A Walk Among the Black Mangroves (All Extension Agents)
3:20 – 3:30 pm Wrap Up
To attend, you must register for the event at this site: link coming soon!
For more information please contact Ray Bodrey at 850-639-3200 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Special to the Panama City News Herald
L. Scott Jackson
UF/IFAS Extension Bay County / Florida Sea Grant
UF/IFAS Extension Gulf County / Florida Sea Grant
Do you live in Bay, Gulf, and Franklin County? We need your help! Scallop Sitters is one of our cooperative volunteer programs with Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC).
Historically, populations of bay scallops were in large numbers and able to support fisheries across many North Florida bays, including St Andrew Bay, St Joe Bay, and Alligator Harbor (Franklin County). Consecutive years of poor environmental conditions, habitat loss, and general “bad luck” resulted in poor annual production and caused the scallop fishery to close. Bay scallops are a short-lived species growing from babies to spawning adults and dying in about a year. Scallop populations can recover quickly when growing conditions are good and can decline dramatically when growing conditions are bad.
An opportunity to jump start restoration of North Florida’s bay scallops came in 2011. Using funding from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, a multi-county scallop restoration program was proposed and eventually set up in 2016. Scientists with FWC use hatchery reared scallops obtained from parents or broodstock from local bays to grow them in mass to increase the number of spawning adults near critical seagrass habitat.
FWC also created another program where volunteers can help with restoration called “Scallop Sitters” in 2018 and invited UF/IFAS Extension to help manage the volunteer part of the program in 2019 which led to targeted efforts in Gulf and Bay Counties.
Giving scallops a helping hand, “Scallop Sitters” work with UF/IFAS Extension, Florida Sea Grant, and FWC restoration scientists by cleaning scallops and checking salinity once a month from June through January. Photo by Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS Extension and Florida Sea Grant.
After the 2020 hiatus due to COVID-19, the program boasted nearly 100 volunteers for the 2021 campaign. UF/IFAS Extension is once again partnering with FWC in Bay and Gulf and Franklin Counties. Despite challenges with rainfall, stormwater runoff, and low salinity, our Scallop Sitter volunteers have supplied valuable information to researchers and restoration efforts, especially in these beginning years of our program. Scallop Sitters collect useful information about salinities throughout the target bays. But the bulk of the impact comes with keeping a close watch on their scallops. The scallops maintained by their sitters have a better chance of a successful spawn when the time is right.
A “Scallop Sitter” cage ready for placement near seagrasses. The cages are restoration tools used to produce baby scallops during the annual growing cycle. Photo by L. Scott Jackson.
So, what does a Scallop Sitter do? Volunteers manage predator exclusion cages of scallops, which are either placed in the bay or by a dock. The cages supply a safe environment for the scallops to live and reproduce, and in turn repopulate the bays. Volunteers make monthly visits from June until January to their assigned cages where they clean scallops removing attached barnacles and other potential problem organisms. Scallop Sitters watch the mortality rate and collect salinity data which helps figure out restoration goals and success in targeted areas.
You are invited! Become a Scallop Sitter
Franklin County https://bit.ly/franklinscallopsitter22
Gulf County https://bit.ly/gulfscallopsitter22
Bay County https://bit.ly/bayscallopsitter22
- You will be sent a registration survey via email, a virtual workshop link, and an invite to our Northwest Florida Scallop Sitter Facebook Group.
- View a virtual workshop or you can attend our Kickoff Reception 9:30 AM before picking up your scallops and supplies. See the pick-up schedule below.
- Pick-up supplies and scallops:
Franklin County: June 2nd Kickoff Reception 9:30AM, Pick-up 10:00AM – 1:00 PM (Eastern)
Gulf County: June 9th Kickoff Reception 9:30AM, Pick-up 10:00AM – 1:00 PM (Eastern)
Bay County: June 16th Kickoff Reception 9:30AM, Pick-up 10:00AM – 1:00 PM (Central)
An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Andra Johnson, Dean for UF/IFAS Extension. Single copies of UF/IFAS Extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county UF/IFAS Extension offices.