Sarasota Bay Watch Happenings by Larry Stults

4th Annual Scallopalooza

Sarasota Bay Watch’s 4th Annual Scallopalooza is proof that the people, businesses, organizations and institutions of Manatee and Sarasota Counties can come together to tackle a large, long term marine restoration project.

Sarasota Bay Watch was formed around a single guiding principal – working together as a community to improve and protect our waterways. This spirit of cooperative action is captured in their slogan “A Healthy Bay Is Everybody’s Business.”

A major focus of Sarasota Bay Watch is restoring scallops, which used to be a key part of our marine environment, to our area bays. Up until the 1960’s bay scallops helped clean our waters and served as an important link in the marine food chain. Scallops are tremendous filter feeders, working constantly as small biological water purifiers to remove algae and silt. They are also a rich food source that help support fish, ray and crab populations. Clearer and cleaner water, combined with a plentiful food supply, made our bay healthy, robust and productive; at one time scallops were an economic contributor to our community.

However, scallops are also known as the marine equivalent of canaries in a coal mine, and are among the first marine organisms to suffer when water quality declines. By the 1960’s area scallops had virtually vanished and the State of Florida instituted a ban on scalloping for most of southwest Florida. Today water quality has improved and our sea grass beds are lush and thriving, yet scallops have not returned to their rightful spot in the bay’s habitat. Sarasota Bay Watch believes that now is the perfect time to give scallops a helping hand. Over the last 2 years SBW, working under permits from the State of Florida, has released 54 million larvae into the bay in an effort to re-establish stable breeding populations of scallops. Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and Bay Shellfish Company are partners in this project.

Our annual Scallopalooza fundraiser is an important part of the Scallop Restoration Project because we rely on local contributions for the funding needed to get the job done. This program is maintained by the generous ongoing support of our community, which has contributed about $50,000 to date. The Sarasota Bay Watch scallop restoration program has caught the attention of national supporters such as the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, and it received a Gulf Guardian Award from a branch of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2013.

This year’s Scallopalooza will feature local historian John McCarthy, who will share his perspective on the role that scallops have played in our history, our economy, our art and our community.

Sarasota Bay Watch president Larry Stults says “A scallop restoration pilot study was successful in the Boca Grande area around Pine Island. This gives us hope that with the strong backing of our community we will achieve even greater success in Sarasota Bay.”

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