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Scallop tally improved, but still modest in annual hunt

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TIERRA VERDE — Just before the fleet of boats, kayaks and paddleboards fanned out over the still waters of Tampa Bay on Saturday morning, volunteers were reminded of their goal at the annual Great Bay Scallop Search.

“We are monitoring scallops. We’re not collecting scallops. We’re not having a cookout back here,” said Eric Plage, an environmental scientist with the non-profit Tampa Bay Watch.

It wouldn’t have been much of a feast for the more than 200 people who launched from the boat ramp at Fort De Soto Park.

With a yield of 109 after several hours of searching, each person would have had to split just one of the tiny shellfish, which embed themselves in comfy beds of pasta-like seagrass across the bay’s bottom.

That’s more than double what snorkelers found last August, but still way too few to declare a major comeback for the fragile species which need clean, clear water to thrive.

Harry Cunningham, a volunteer with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, grew up in a day when you still could put together a proper scallop dinner after spending the day in Pinellas County waters.