Bay Scallop Season and Abundance Survey
Annual Abundance Surveys
Each summer, biologists assess bay scallop populations along the Gulf coast of Florida, located in open and closed recreational harvest areas. In the past, these surveys were initiated in June and completed in July. Moving forward, these surveys will be completed in the fall, closer to the time that scallops begin to spawn. Moving the surveys to the fall will provide scientists with a better estimate of the number of scallops available to spawn. Scientists look at long-term trends in the abundance of scallops in both the open and closed areas and present those findings to the Division of Marine Fisheries Management.
Open Harvest Area
There are eight counties that have been surveyed in the past within the open harvest area: Gulf, Franklin, Wakulla, Taylor, Dixie, Citrus, Hernando and Pasco. The graph below illustrates the average number of scallops observed per 200 square meters in those counties from 2012 to 2019. Scientists are currently changing the techniques used to survey scallop population abundance. While these changes are being tested, surveys will be focused on Citrus county.
Scallop population abundance is highly variable because scallops live for one year and scallops are sensitive to changes in water quality, like salinity. Abrupt changes in scallop population abundance may occur after major environmental events such as an El Niño, hurricanes or tropical storms.
Closed Harvest Area
There are five study sites in the areas closed to scallop harvest: Pensacola Bay (Santa Rosa and Escambia Counties), St. Andrew Bay (Bay County), Anclote (Pasco and Pinellas), Tampa Bay (Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee) and Pine Island Sound (Lee). While there has been an increase in the number of scallops observed in the closed areas during the last 10 years, likely due to a combination of management (prohibited harvest) and restoration efforts, those scallop populations continue to be extremely sensitive to localized conditions.
Harvest periods, harvest locations and fishing regulations are subject to change. Before collecting bay scallops, recreational harvesters should review current rules and regulations.
Remember: Scuba divers and snorkelers are required to carry and display a divers-down flag.
Planning on going scalloping this bay scallop season? Help biologists learn more about how many bay scallops live along Florida's Gulf Coast by submitting your bay scallop harvest data through our web survey. View "Bay Scallop Web Survey Taps Recreational Harvesters" for more information.