THE ISSUE: Scallop season turning out to be less than impressive.
OUR OPINION: Be proactive to prevent overharvesting.
If you’ve been living in Citrus County for a while, you know that scalloping was never really the talk of the town until recent years.
Before the days of scallop festivals, scallop tours and bringing your catch to a local restaurant to be cooked any way you like, if you were hunting for scallops on the Gulf, you were probably either a boat captain or Florida native. It’s not something that was always deeply marketed as recreation in Citrus.
Now passing the rookie years as a scallop destination, Citrus’ 2019 season has shown itself to be less than desirable. Many area captains and recreational
scallop-goers are reporting a noticeable decrease in scallop populations, and that’s something that should not be ignored.
In a recent guest column (Sunday, July 28, page C1), local veterinarian K.C. Nayfield urges citizens and government officials to be mindful of the delicate mollusk in order to ensure healthy scallop populations for future generations to enjoy. Nayfield proposed changes like a shorter scalloping season, reduction in bag limits, improvements in water quality, sea grass restoration and a scallop stamp required along with the saltwater fishing license to fund restoration projects.
These potential options should be considered if local scalloping is to remain sustainable. Ensuring adequate scallop numbers is a necessity to continue the boon in business scalloping has brought to the local economy; scalloping generates millions of dollars annually in Citrus.
While communities and scallop guides want the season to open early to increase business and revenues, the life cycle of the scallop requires significant time to spawn and bring scallops to maturity.
When the season is opened early, it takes more scallops to get to bag limit; harvesting early means less scallops available to spawn later.
If this low grossing scallop year proves to be the start of a trend, a shorter season or a reduction in bag limits might be the answer to improve populations. Nayfield says we must be careful and not allow greed to kill the goose that is laying the golden egg. He’s right.
If we’re not proactive about keeping populations healthy, we will only lose money and the ability to catch our own dinner in the end.
And since Citrus waters will not be seeing a reduction in boaters anytime soon, it is imperative to focus on the health of our bay scallops and the waters they live in. Nayfield says elimination of pollution from septic systems, fertilizers, chemicals and storm water runoff is a necessity to keep populations thriving. Projects that combat salt water intrusion would be beneficial also.
The pressure on the scallop population is mounting, and we need to try harder to increase their numbers. Getting more scallops in the Gulf will require partnership between local and state governments, businesses and citizens alike.
Citrus must be ahead of the curve and fund restoration projects to ensure that future scallop populations thrive.
Nayfield suggests a scallop stamp required along with the saltwater fishing license to fund local restoration projects.
That’s a great starting point. At a small price point of $5-10 per scalloper, the user tax collected could be appropriated for species study and population preservation to ensure success in future seasons.
Scalloping in Citrus has been wildly successful, but if we overdo it, we’ll lose it. Let’s keep our eye on the mollusk.