Scallop season will open Saturday
Gov. Charlie Crist has announced that the recreational harvest season for bay scallops in Florida will open 12 days earlier than usual this year. The governor is taking this action to help relieve possible economic hardships on Florida fishing communities that may occur due to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Several people and businesses in Northwest Florida and Big Bend coastal regions asked us to please open the popular bay scallop season early this year,” Gov. Crist said. “These folks depend upon the influx of visitors that come to their communities to scallop each summer, and they need a boost right now to help them recover from the mistaken perception that fishing throughout Florida has been affected by the oil spill, which is not the case.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has issued an order which states that the recreational bay scallop harvest season in specified areas in Florida shall open on June 19 instead of July 1 this year. The order also says that all other provisions governing the harvest of bay scallops shall remain in effect for the duration of the order.
The FWC order, which can be viewed online at MyFWC.com/OilSpill, takes effect at 12:01 a.m on June 19 and will expire at 12:01 a.m. on July 1. The regular recreational bay scallop harvesting season in Florida occurs from July 1 through September 10 each year.
“Gov. Crist’s decision to open scallop season a little early this year will give Florida residents and visitors a chance to enjoy a terrific family experience outdoors,” said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto. “It’s the right thing to do for these fishing communities and further illustrates that Florida is the fishing capital of the world.”
Open scalloping areas on Florida’s Gulf coast extend from the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County to the Pasco-Hernando county line near Aripeka. It is legal to take bay scallops only within the allowable harvest areas, and it is illegal to possess bay scallops while you’re in or on state waters outside the open harvest areas, or to land bay scallops outside the open areas.
There is a daily limit of 2 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person during the open season. In addition, no more than 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or one-half gallon of bay scallop meat may be possessed aboard any vessel at any time. Scallopers are allowed to harvest bay scallops only by hand or with a landing or dip net, and bay scallops may not be harvested for commercial purposes.
Unless otherwise exempt, scallopers will need a regular Florida saltwater fishing license when using a boat to harvest scallops. Those who wade from shore will need a regular Florida saltwater fishing license or a resident shore-based license, which is free beginning on July 1.
Divers and snorkelers are required to display a “divers-down” flag (red with a white diagonal stripe) while in the water. Boaters must stay at least 100 feet away from a divers-down flag in a river, inlet or channel. In open waters, boaters must stay 300 feet away from a divers-down flag.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission encourages everyone to adhere to scallop fishing regulations and collect only the amount of bay scallops they are willing to clean.
More information on bay scallops, including management rules, dive flag regulations and boating safety is available online at MyFWC.com/Rules; click on “Fishing - Saltwater.”