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Snorkeling gear and a bag of freshly caught scallops rest on a boat ledge.

Scallop Sitter Volunteer Program Returns to Bay, Gulf, and Franklin Counties

Scallop Restoration Efforts

Can you remember where you were last spring? The uncertainty of each day seemed to go on forever. We planned several education programs that eventually were canceled or migrated to online events. Scallop Sitters was one of our volunteer programs with Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) postponed during the 2020 pandemic. FWC biologists continued scallop restoration work last year. They had good results and steps forward in our region. However, there was something painfully absent in our efforts – you! 

 “Appreciate your opportunities” is one of the lessons last year taught us – Whether it is to be with your family, friends, or to serve your community through volunteer service. Some new service opportunities appeared while others were placed on hold. We are excited to announce the Scallop Sitters Program is returning to St. Andrew, St. Joe, and Apalachicola Bays this summer! 

North Florida bay scallops were so plentiful they once supported a commercial fishery. Consecutive years of poor environmental conditions, habitat loss, and general “bad luck” caused the scallop fishery to collapse. Bay scallops are a short-lived species. They grow from babies to spawning adults and then die in about a year. Populations can recover quickly when growing conditions are good. They can be decimated when conditions are bad. 

Funding from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill provided the opportunity to jump start restoration of North Florida’s scallops in 2011.  A multi-county restoration program was proposed and established in 2016. Hatchery reared scallops are produced with parents from local bays. They grow into spawning adults near important seagrass habitat. 

FWC also created an opportunity where volunteers can help with restoration called “Scallop Sitters” in 2018. UF/IFAS Extension helps FWC with restoration efforts by supporting volunteer efforts. 

How Scallop Sitters Help

After a year’s absence, UF/IFAS Extension is partnering with FWC again in Bay and Gulf Counties and expanding the program into Franklin County. Our Scallop Sitter volunteers have provided valuable information to researchers and restoration efforts, especially in these beginning years of the program. 

Volunteers care for predator exclusion cages of scallops in the bay or by a dock. The cages provide a safe environment for the scallops to live and reproduce and help repopulate the bay. Volunteers make monthly visits from June until January to their assigned cages. Scallops are cleaned by removing attached barnacles and other potential problem organisms. Scallop Sitters monitor mortality rates and collect salinity data which determines helps with restoration goals and success in targeted restoration areas. 

You are invited! Become a Scallop Sitter

  1. Register on Eventbrite to be a 2021 Scallop Sitter for: Bay County: http://bit.ly/bayscallopsitter. For additional information contact Scott Jackson at (850) 784-6105. In Franklin County: http://bit.ly/franklinscallopsitter. For additional information contact Erik Lovestrand at (850) 653-9337. In Gulf County: http://bit.ly/gulfscallopsitter. For additional information contact Ray Bodrey at (850) 639-3200.  The last day for new Scallop Sitters to sign-up is the Monday before the pick up date, so be sure to register before then!
  2. Take the pre-survey (link will be sent to your email address upon Eventbrite Registration.
  3. View a Virtual Workshop in May.
  4. Attend a Zoom virtual Q & A session in May or June with multiple dates and times available.
  5. Pick up supplies & scallops on June 17 with an alternate pick-up date to be announced.

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

Originally published in the Panama City News Herald, 

 https://www.newsherald.com/story/lifestyle/2021/04/05/bay-gulf-franklin-counties-seek-volunteer-scallop-sitters/7095462002/  

Giving scallops a helping hand, “Scallop Sitters” work with UF/IFAS Extension, Florida Sea Grant, and FWC restoration scientist by cleaning scallops and monitoring salinity once a month from June through January. (photo by Tyler Jones,  UF/IFAS).