The question this year was, "How's the bay today?"
Ever wanted to be a scientist for a day?
At the 2019 Great Scallop and Clam Search on Aug. 24, 25 boats containing 97 “citizen scientists” took to the water to monitor the bay for the 12th annual iteration of the event. The citizen scientists participating in the event were there to monitor, not restore, the population of scallops and clams in Sarasota Bay, said event organizer Ronda Ryan. Currently, the Sarasota Bay Watch is putting out clams, which filter the water in the bay and live for about 30 years, to try to hedge the effects of red tide.
“Today, we’re just seeing what’s out there,” said Ryan.
Snorkelers called out observations back to their boats while checking out their assigned areas. Diver Down flags marked where people were in the water, and floating lines generally marked the area around where they would search.
Though a lot of dead scallops were found when combing the bottom of the bay, there were also small ones that may have been from a spawn, which is a good sign. In total, about 90 clams and six scallops were found, Rusty Chinnis wrote in an email.
"While that might not sound like much given the limited areas searched and the water quality we were pleased," Chinnis wrote.
Blue and stone crabs were also plentiful amongst the strong shoal, turtle and manatee grasses. Sea horses and small fish were also found. Al Jeffrey, diving deep, commented on how clear the water is. Since last year’s outbreak of red tide, the bay’s health has not been monitored and many organisms died in the bloom.
"The bay is recovering but we have to be mindful that we need to care for it," Chinnis wrote.