[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Scallop hunt in Pine Island Sound, Fla.


Searchers leave no
Pine Island Sound
scallop unturned

The 2012 Pine Island Sound Scallop Search
on Saturday didn't turn up as many bay
scallops as the 2011 event, but it
produced more than in 2010.

In all, 135 people on 33 teams found 400
scallops during this year's event,
sponsored by Florida Sea Grant and the
Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation,
compared to more than 1,000 last year
and 330 the year before.

All these results help researchers monitor
Pine Island Sound's scallop population.

"We're learning good stuff," Lee County Sea
Grant agent Joy Hazell said. "We're
learning that Pine Island Sound has the
water quality and seagrasses to sustain the
population. We're also learning that people
love doing this. They come back year after
year. They're psyched about it."

Until the mid-1960s, Pine Island Sound
had a healthy bay scallop population that
supported a million-dollar commercial
scallop industry.

But scallop populations crashed along
Florida's Gulf coast when water quality
declined and seagrass beds disappeared
as human population and development
Various organizations, including SCCF,
Florida Sea Grant, Mote Marine Laboratory
and the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission, have tried to
restore scallop populations by releasing
millions of baby scallops in to Gulf coast

Scallop searches help determine how well
scallops are recovering — searchers in
Sarasota Bay found 93 scallops Saturday,
and 20 in Charlotte Harbor.

Sea Scout adviser Susie Hassett brought
three Scouts to Saturday's Pine Island
Sound event.

"We're excited to help monitor the scallop
population," Hassett said. "I'm especially i
nterested that our future voters know
what's at stake as far as clean water is

"These kids love fishing; they're seeing how
all parts of the ecosystem work. Bay
scallops are an indicator species. If
scallops are healthy, fish are healthy."

Many teams were made up of families,
including Hassett's: Daughter and Sea
Scout Shelly Hassett, 18, participated in her
third scallop search.

"It's always a lot of fun," Shelly Hassett
said. "You see something new every time
you go out. I believe in the conservation of
the marine ecosystem. We need to know
we're doing the best thing for the

Scallop search protocols are simple but
precise: Each team is assigned a 1-
square-mile grid. Inside the grid, the team
lays a weighted 50-meter transect line
along the bottom, and a snorkeler swims
on each side of the line counting scallops
found within one meter of the line.

Each team runs four transects and
measures the first five scallops found on
each transect.

This year scallops were found farther north
in Pine Island Sound than in the event's first
two years.

"We're seeing a healthy population," Hazell
said. "They're more spread out in the
sound than they have been in the past.
Being in more spots, scallops will be more
resilient if we get red tide or something like

Participating in his first scallop search, Eric
Nelson, 45, of Cape Coral and his team
found four scallops.

"A friend told me about it, and it sounded
like a good idea," Nelson said. "It was kind
of awkward at first, but once we got into it,
it was fun. It's like a little treasure hunt
almost. I just wish we'd found more."

Dana Moller, left, takes a photo of a clam and Robin
DeMattia takes notes as they participated Saturday in
a scallop hunt in Pine Island Sound. The two
volunteers laid out transect lines and scuba dived
during their search, but they came up with no
scallops in their assigned area. Over a hundred
volunteers participated in the event, fanning out in
boats throughout Pine Island Sound and its
environs in order to gather research about scallops.

Dana Moller, left, Robin DeMattia and 133 others searched Pine Island Sound. Similar events took place in Saasota Bay and Charlotte Harbor. / Terry Allen Williams/news-press.com
Scallop facts
Scientific name: Argopecten irradians
Distribution: Along Florida's west coast and as far north as West Palm Beach on the east coast.
Habitat: Seagrass beds in estuaries.
Life span: 12-18 months.
Diet: Bay scallops filter algae and other organic matter from the water.
Predators: Crabs, octopus and a variety of finfish.
Harvest: Commercial harvest of bay scallops in Florida is prohibited. Recreational harvest of bay scallops is allowed July 1-Sept. 10 from the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County to the Pasco-Hernando county line. The daily limit is 2 gallons of whole scallops or 1 pint of scallop meat per person.

Related Links
Scallop Hunt in Pine Island Sound

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