A record number of bay scallops were counted Saturday, August 22 during the annual Great Bay Scallop Search sponsored by the Tampa Bay Watch environmental group. A total of 128 volunteers in 32 boats and 12 kayaks spent several hours snorkeling at 76 sites in Boca Ciega and lower Tampa bays searching for scallops, which have been counted every year since 1993 to gauge the health of their populations. Saturday’s search uncovered 233 scallops, Tampa Bay Watch communications coordinator Rachel Arndt said. That figure was up from 112 last year and 51 in 2013.
“It’s been doubling over the last years, so it’s a good trend,” she said.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, scallops are sensitive to changing environmental conditions such as seagrass losses, increases in fresh water and loosening of sediments. A healthy scallop population can be an indicator of water quality because of their pollution sensitivity.