Preliminary results of the 2017 scalloping season monitoring in Taylor County waters, Florida, USA.
Scalloping in the Nature Coast and Big Bend seagrass beds regions of the GOM in Florida has historically been a very important recreational and economic activity. FWC annually reviews the status of the scallop stock in this areas and results of surveys have continually shown that the scallop population within the Big Bend counties are key to the sustainability of the recreational harvest. However, most aspects related to scalloping in Taylor County waters as a recreational fishing activity remain unknown which is an opportunity to better understand and manage the awareness and knowledge about the resource and its economic impact locally.
A passive method for assessing the recreational scalloping activity in the Harvesting Area 2 of Taylor County State waters is being performed applying surveys in 2 public boat ramps (Keaton Beach and Steinhatchee). The goal is to carry out a qualitative and semi-quantitative analysis to describe the involved variables on the scalloping activity to estimate fishing effort in Taylor County, the economic impact to local businesses, prioritize and develop educational/communication tools for different stakeholders, and support decision making and managing practices at State and local levels. This preliminary report describes the results of analysis of data from June 16 to August 9, as a total of the 2 sampled locations.
69% of surveyed boats said they harvest their daily limit of scallops, while 29% don’t. Only 2% said they didn’t know there was a harvest limit. 35% of boaters get any size of scallops (including small), but 65% focus their effort on medium to large size scallops and leave the small in the water.
It was estimated that each boat at Keaton Beach spent in average $184.20 while Steinhatchee boaters spent $561, so the average of expenses per boat in Taylor County is $376.30. Fishing supplies and restaurants account for 47.7% of all expenses in the county, groceries for 19.5%, boat fuel for 16.2% and lodging for 10.6%.
Data of 30 variables related to the activity was collected. The results indicate that fishing pressure over the scallop population in Taylor County waters remains high (almost 80% of boaters go scalloping, and almost 70% collect the daily limit), with an important local economic impact (average $450/day/boat), especially during weekends. Extension activities must focus on sharing monitoring results with State and local key stakeholders to improve regional knowledge of the impact of the activity in the County. If the level of fishing effort remains high or increases, population might suffer the hazard of overfishing in the near future, so extra management measures must be taken.
Find more information of the scalloping season at Florida Sea Grant website.