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Vol. 17 No. 43 - August 9, 2017

reel time

10th annual scallop search

Reel time


Participants from the first ever scallop search enjoy lunch after the event.


Sarasota Bay Watch will hold its 10th annual Great Sarasota Bay Scallop Search on Saturday, Aug. 26, from 8 a.m. to noon. The event launches from the Sarasota Sailing Squadron at 1717 Ken Thompson Parkway on City Island. For the past nine years, individuals and families from around the community have come together to volunteer for the popular event. The search allows participants to get in the water and help monitor the scallop population in Sarasota Bay. It’s also a chance for them to get a glimpse under Bay waters and experience its rich and varied flora and fauna. Additionally, the event supports scientists from the Florida Wildlife Research Institute, who track the health and abundance of bay scallops. So why is this important?

Until the 1960s, scallops were plentiful in Sarasota Bay. That all changed when development mushroomed in the area. With the building came dredging that created miles of canals and clouded bay waters with sediment. That sediment blocked the sun’s rays causing a massive die-off of seagrass. The destruction was exacerbated by the release of untreated and partially treated sewage from new developments on the mainland and the barrier islands.

The combination of insults led to a drastic reduction in the number of scallops. Fortunately, scallops, although severely impacted by the loss of water quality, have managed to survive. Over the years, water quality has gradually improved, and the past few decades have ushered in a dramatic increase in the quality and clarity of bay water and a resulting increase in seagrass.

In 2008 Sarasota Bay Watch initiated a restoration project to help scallops benefit from the increased water quality and sea grass. The multifaceted cooperative effort’s aim is to be financially independent of Federal, State and Local funding. Since its inception, the program has introduced over one hundred million scallop larva (spat) into bay waters.

The search begins with an introduction and training session on searching for scallops in the bay’s seagrass beds. To assess the abundance of scallops, a grid (called a transect) is created that covers an area of the bay. Participants will receive a five-gallon bucket that holds the tools they’ll need to cover their area. Each bucket contains a 50-meter (150 feet long) line with a buoy at each end. Swimmers stretch the line out and swim down both sides with a one meter long PVC pipe. This allows participants to cover 100 square meters of seagrass in each grid. The results from the search areas are combined and extrapolated to provide a good idea of the abundance of scallops in the bay in general. Florida Sea Grant has produced a YouTube video that explains the whole process, check it out at

This is a great opportunity to support efforts in monitoring scallops in Sarasota Bay. Participants need to bring a mask and snorkel, fins, sunscreen and water. A dive flag and a weight belt are also helpful (if available). At the end of the search participants will gather back at the Sailing Squadron where lunch will be provided. Enjoy a great day on the water, a cool dip and lunch while helping document scallop populations. Reservations are required. For more information and to register go

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