FWC: Working to replenish the scallop population in area bays

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) like Austin Heil and Cameron Baxley check every inch of their spat traps for baby scallops once a month.

"We'll come out here and pull traps at 16 different stations here in St. Andrew Bay," Baxley said.

Looking for even one though is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Sometimes they say they find dozens of scallops, if not more. Other times, it's less.

They're hoping to turn over a new shell for scallops in St. Andrew and St. Joseph Bays.

"The idea is to restore the populations here back to where they used to be," Heil explained.

This isn't a new idea for them.

"We've done this in Pine Island. We've done this in Tampa Bay," Heil said.

"Those spat that we find, we'll actually take those and put them back in the bay in cages," Baxley said.

"The point of our restoration project [is] to grow these scallops into adults (30 centimeters) and have them spawn," Heil said.

"It's still a closed season so it's not doing well enough for us to have an open season, but obviously we're still finding scallops when we're here in St. Andrew Bay," Baxley said. "We're still finding adults. They are here. If people went snorkeling it would be quite possible to see scallops in the seagrass beds here.

Community members can help out, too, by keeping scallops in cages from April 2018 to January 2019.

If you live along St. Andrew or St. Joseph Bay, have a dock, boat, or kayak, and you're interested in helping with this project, send an e-mail to bayscallops@myfwc.com.