many as 90% of the spat will die within sixweeks of latching on to seagrasses. Those thatdo grow large enough to avoid consumption bypredators will eventually drop off and fall to thebottom, where they will remain the rest of theirlives.Even as adults, scallops live a precariousexistence. A variety of marine creatures,including blue crabs, stone crabs, and whelks,are able to pry the scallop shells open andextract the tender meat within. Sometimes thescallop can escape this fate by swimming away.Occasionally, the algae, tunicates, and otherorganisms that attach to scallop shells mayconceal them from predators—although this isnot a reliable defense.One creature, the pea crab, manages to live inharmony with the bay scallop; this little crabﬁnds protection within the scallop’s shells.Although the pea crab does steal some food fromthe scallop, it doesn’t take enough to jeopardizethe health of its host.Bay scallops are very sensitive to changes intemperature and salinity. They are alsovulnerable to changes in water quality. Watermade cloudy by ﬂoating particles and sediments,referred to as turbidity, can clog the scallop’sgills. The scallop can close its shell to protectthese gills for short periods but is unable to shutout the dirty water for more than about twohours.
Threats to Bay Scallops
Bay scallops were once plentiful throughoutFlorida’s west coast but have virtuallydisappeared in some areas. An extensive scallopﬁshery existed in Tampa Bay as recently as the1960s, but scallops are rarely found there now.Charlotte Harbor also supported a commercialscallop ﬁshery some 30 years ago. Scientistsbelieve that poor water quality is responsible forthese declines. Currently, the most extensive bayscallop populations are located north and westof the Suwannee River, particularly near theﬁshing hamlet of Steinhatchee and in St. JosephBay.Once a population is depleted, it may not beable to recover on its own, even with improvedwater quality and restrictions on harvest.Scallops are broadcast spawners, sequentiallyreleasing eggs and sperm to maximizefertilization by other scallops. If no otherscallops are nearby, reproduction may not besuccessful. Consequently, a depleted scalloppopulation may have to rely on neighboringpopulations to replenish its losses.
Restrictions on scallop harvesting have beenenacted to enhance the natural recovery ofscallop populations. No commercial harvest ofbay scallops is allowed anywhere in the state,and recreational catches are now limited.Before the restrictions were adopted,telephone surveys of scallopers and aerialsurveys of popular harvesting areas wereconducted by the Florida Fish and WildlifeConservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish andWildlife Research Institute. Those surveysrevealed that the intense ﬁshing pressure placedon already depleted scallop populationshindered natural recovery of some stocks. As aresult, all scalloping areas south of theSuwannee River, including Homosassa andCrystal rivers, were closed, and scalloping northof the Suwannee was restricted to the periodfrom July 1 through September 10. Subsequent
Researchers frequently ﬁnd the outside of stonecrab burrows littered with broken scallop shells.
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Fishing regulations may change annually. Contact theFWCDivision of Law Enforcement for information aboutcurrent regulations. Current saltwater ﬁshing regulationscan also be found on the Web site for the FWC Divisionof Marine Fisheries Management, located athttp://MyFWC.com/marine.