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Great Scallop Search valued as water quality indicator

The Great Bay Scallop Search returns after being canceled last year.

ST. PETERSBURG — Fort De Soto Park was packed for the annual Great Bay Scallop Search, and for good reason: Around 200 volunteers were energized after having to miss out on the search last year because of red tide fears.

“(We're) definitely very excited to have all these volunteers out here. It was a shame to miss it last year, and all the volunteers are very excited to get out there on the water,” said Eric Plage, an environmental specialist with Tampa Bay Watch.

The goal was not to find dinner.

“We are returning the scallops to the area from which we found them. We are not harvesting them and putting some garlic butter and some white wine and all that good stuff on it," Plage joked. Scallops are water filters. If the water is too contaminated or diluted, they cannot filter.

"If they’re prevalent in an area, that means there’s good water quality there. If we can’t find any, that’s kind of a sign that the water needs improvement. That the water quality is a bit poor." Plage said.

The annual search has been conducted nearly every year since 1993 to gauge the water quality in Tampa Bay.