Scallops in danger more after the effects of red tide outbreak

Updated: Jun. 15, 2019 at 10:09 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - With scallop season already underway in part of the state, there is concern for the future of the industry. It’s been nearly a year since red tide hammered throughout the Suncoast, affecting marine life, including scallops.

“What we found out is that a bunch of them lived through the red tide, not so much for the scallops,” said Rusty Chinnis.

Chinnis from Sarasota Bay Watch has been working with other members of the organization and Mote Laboratory by using shellfish to fight red tide. But he says once Sarasota became a popular spot back in the 1900s, the number of scallops reduced. It got worse when the blue waters turned brown last year.

“They had a seagrass survey today in Sarasota, and I spoke to some people there and nobody saw scallops, they did see some clams,” he said.

Chinnis says the lifespan of a scallop is about a year. So they looked into more long-lasting solutions.

What they found is clams are highly resistant to Florida red tide, surviving extended exposure. They can filter dozens of gallons a day, and can live up to 30 years. That’s why volunteers released more than 170,000 clams into the water last year. Both Sarasota Bay Watch and Mote partnered with a clam farm in Pine Island in an attempt to re-nourish the area.

But scallops may be in danger. In order to raise awareness, Chinnis and others are holding a “Great Scallop Search.”

“What we do is a two-fold, quasi-scientific because it gets people involved in the bay. It gets them to go out and get their heads under the water, but it also gives some information to scientists about the distribution of scallops,” he said.

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