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Bay scallop conservation measures approved

Scallops*(For more information on Bay scallops, click here: http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/)

At the June 23 meeting near Apalachicola, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved measures to conserve bay scallops in the St. Joseph Bay area. The measures include delaying and shortening the recreational bay scallop season so it will open Aug. 22, run through Sept. 5, 2016 (Labor Day), and will close to harvest Sept. 6, as well as changing the daily bag limit to 40 scallops per person or 200 per vessel, whichever is less, in all waters west of St. Vincent Island through the west bank of Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County.

Ongoing research and monitoring results indicate bay scallops in Gulf County were negatively impacted during a 2015 red tide event in the area. There has not been any red tide observed in the bay since January, and areas east of Gulf County do not appear to have been impacted.

The FWC has been working closely with Gulf County in a coordinated and cooperative effort to minimize negative impacts associated with potential low scallop numbers this summer. The FWC will continue monitoring the bay, and is currently conducting restoration efforts. FWC researchers have already collected 650 scallops and placed them in cages in the bay to help promote spawning, and will continue to collect more scallops for restoration purposes. Caged scallops will be marked. Tampering with or scalloping in areas near cages that are marked with no scalloping signage is prohibited.

In areas east of the western point of St. Vincent Island through the Pasco-Hernando county line, the 2016 bay scallop season will open June 25 through Sept. 24, closing Sept. 25 and the bag limit remains 2 gallons of whole bay scallops or 1 pint of meat per person, per day, with a vessel limit of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops or a half-gallon of meat. Areas west of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County are closed to bay scallop harvest.

Scallops may be collected by hand or with a landing or dip net, and must be landed within the area that is open to harvest.

There is no commercial harvest allowed for bay scallops in Florida.

Be safe when diving for scallops. Stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down warning device (flag, buoy, etc.) when scalloping in open water and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down warning device if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. Boat operators traveling within 300 feet of a divers-down warning device in open water or 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel must slow to idle speed. Learn more about divers down warning devices at MyFWC.com/Boating by clicking on “Regulations.”

Help FWC’s scallop researchers by completing an online survey at http://svy.mk/bayscallops. Harvesters can indicate where they harvest scallops, how many they collect and how long it takes to harvest them. Participants can email BayScallops@MyFWC.com to ask questions or send additional information.

Learn more about long-term trends in the open and closed scalloping areas by visiting MyFWC.com/Research and clicking on “Saltwater,” “Mollusc,” “Bay Scallops” and “Season.”

For regulation updates, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops.”