It goes without saying that 2020 was a tough year – and one of the projects that suffered was the annual GREAT SCALLOP SEARCH. This was to be our fifth annual event but COVID and constant threat of tropical storms reduced our ability to get volunteers out. That said, a few volunteers were able to go and OUR FIRST LIVE SCALLOP WAS REPORTED!
5 volunteers conducted 16 transects on the east end of Big Lagoon – 1600m2 total.
1 live scallop was found
Many scallop shells were found, and many were found near the opening of a den. It is believed that these are the homes of either crabs or the gulf toadfish (Opansus beta). Predation on any live scallop could be an issue for restoration efforts.
The area of one transect is 100m2 and the report was that the seagrass density averaged to 88% coverage.
There was no epiphytic macroalgae reported on the seagrass this year.
2015 – 2020
69 volunteers conducted 161 transects since 2015
1 live scallop was found (2020) – Frequency of Occurrence = 0.6% of the surveys
Seagrass density has ranged between 69-92% coverage for those transects
Epiphytic macroalgae was reported more often in the middle of Big Lagoon, as opposed to the eastern and western ends.
Other ancedoltal reports of live scallops have come from the bay area outside of these surveys. It is suffice to say that the Frequency of Occurrence of this species is very low and that natural restoration of their populations is also very slow – if happening at all.
Reasons for this slow recovery could be:
- lack of suitable habitat – seagrass, though our subjective assessments within surveys suggests that each transect is at least 70% covered with seagrass.
- Low salinity due to heavy rainfall and stormwater run-off. Salinity monitoring in Big Lagoon is currently happening but not enough data has been collected to report at this time. It has been determined that the salinity of the system needs to be 20‰ or higher most of the time. More to come on this one.
- The observation that many scallop shells are found around submerged dens suggest that predation could also be a problem.
- We do not know the extent of human harvesting, but we would remind all that harvesting scallops in Escambia County is illegal. We need to let the natural populations have a chance to recover on their own. Please do not harvest scallops you may find.
If you are interested in participating in the 2021 GREAT SCALLOP SEARCH, the event will be in the spring of 2021 – looking at May right now. You can contact Rick O’Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 475-5230 ext 111 for more information.