For the first time, an annual scallop search and count in southern Pinellas County has been canceled due to reports of red tide.
Tampa Bay Watch (TBW), a local non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Tampa Bay Estuary, issued an official statement to volunteers and the general public through their Facebook page on Tuesday, August 21 at about 10 a.m. The group’s headquarters is located at 3000 Pinellas Bayway South, in Tierra Verde just north of the entrance to Ft. De Soto Park that is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico shoreline.
“Unfortunately the 2018 Great Bay Scallop Search on Saturday, August 25 has been cancelled due to low levels of red tide at Fort De Soto Park and moderate levels at Egmont Key,” said the social media post. “There are trending southwest winds which may increase the level of red tide in the bay by the end of the week. Our number one concern is the health and safety of our volunteers, so the decision is to cancel the event.”
The organization’s science staff used a report dated Monday, August 20 from the U.S. Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other recent government data to help make the determination to cancel the count, said Rachel Arndt, TBW’s communications manager.
For the count, “200 people are snorkeling in the water,” she said. “Most importantly, we wanted to get the most recent results to look out for the health and safety of everyone before making the final decision to cancel the event. And, we didn’t want to wait until the very last minute with so many volunteer participants. We wanted to make sure everyone had plenty of notice.”
According to the TBW website, two-inch bay scallops live from 12 to 18 months and are extremely sensitive to pollution making them “serve as useful ‘underwater canaries’ to signal changes in water quality.”
For more information about the organization’s annual scallop search program and collection data dating back to 1996, visit tampabaywatch.org/scallop-search.html. From 2001 to 2003, the organization did not hold annual searches because the scallop population was low for reasons unrelated to red tide – it needed time to regrow, said Peter A. Clark, TBW’s founder and president.
Gulfport Remains Clear of Red Tide
On the morning of Tuesday, August 21, Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly confirmed for the Gabber that the area of Boca Ciega Bay adjacent to the city remains clear of red tide.
O’Reilly cited data collected from Williams Pier and reported by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on the afternoon of Friday, August 17.