Scallop swimming for Nayfield

Snorkelers look for scallops offshore of Citrus County's coastline. The popular table fare have been difficult for many to locate this year.

This year’s scallop season has been less than ideal, with area boat captains and others reporting slim pickings of the tasty mollusk found in the Gulf waters around Citrus County.

“This season was probably the toughest ever,” said Capt. Red Ed Brennan, of Red Ed’s Adventures in Homosassa.

He estimates he lost about $10,000 in lost charters, due mainly to bad weather and negative publicity about meager scallop yields. Brennan said his charters averaged 2-3 gallons of scallops per boat trip, compared to 10-gallon yields in the past.

Brennan attended Wednesday’s meeting of the Citrus County Tourist Development Council (TDC), where board members were set to debate recommendations to ensure that the scallop population - important to attracting tourists and contributing to the local economy - will thrive.

After lengthy debate, the TDC agreed to draft a position paper and fire it off to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

The paper will stress two things:

- The need for a “scallop stamp” to help fund research and enforcement. County commissioners in August included a $10 stamp on its priority list sent to the county’s legislative delegation — consisting of Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto and Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby.

-  The possibility of staggering bag limits by the month on the number of scallops people can take out of the water. Bag limits would be lowered to start the season and gradually increased as the season lengthens.

Currently, a person is allowed to have either two gallons of whole scallops in-shell or one pint of shucked scallop meat. A vessel is allowed to have up to 10 gallons of whole scallops or a half gallon of shucked scallop meat, according to FWC.

TDC members discussed but rejected the possibility of shifting the dates for scallop season, perhaps starting it later in the year.

The current months - which this year were July through September - will work, they said.

John Pricher, director of the Citrus County Visitors Bureau, will help write the position paper and bring it back to the TDC board at an upcoming meeting for further discussion before sending it to FWC.

Pricher said it would likely be 2021 before the state agency would enact any of the recommendations. 

TDC member Gene McGee said the tweaks to bag limits and the stamp would be prudent moves even if the scalloping season rebounds next year.

“It’s still a good idea,” he said.

Brennan applauded TDC members for drafting the paper and trying to keep scalloping in Citrus County viable.

“Hopefully this was a rare season and it gets back to normal next year,” he said.

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com.

(2) comments

AlexanderLewis

I agree with the comment above. We can't expect to over-fish a species and then wonder why the population has dwindled as a direct result.

CitrusCo Citizen

First thing you need to take a close look at is the water quality of the eel grass meadows. Remember there was a devastating red tide and blue-green algae plague just a few miles to the south, which killed everything in the Gulf coast including all shellfish and crustaceans living on the bottom. There are now dead zones where stone crabs, scallops, sea horses, small fry and many other bottom creatures that live among the eel grass and corals. Next, you need to consider over fishing. Too many people are taking too many scallops. There's also a lot of damage to the sea grass meadows from boat anchors and pollution from human waste, and fossil fuels leaking out from the boats. It's complicated, but you need to listen to Mother Nature, when a species becomes scarce, and address the various causes.

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