Bay scallop season begins tomorrow for the Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve and the St. Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve and runs through September 24. The fresh seafood brings economic bounty to the region, which is home to the state’s largest population of bay scallops.
“Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve supports the state’s largest and most stable population of bay scallops,” said Tim Jones, manager of St. Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve and Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve. “In fact, many of Big Bend’s small coastal communities depend on the millions of dollars in revenue generated by the annual recreational harvest of bay scallops.”
Thousands of families visit the region each summer to snorkel through the pristine grass beds in search of this tasty treat. Some of the more popular destinations include Crystal River, Homosassa Springs, Steinhatchee and St. Marks.
The region contains some of the world’s most immense coastal salt marshes and includes the second-largest contiguous seagrass bed in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Seagrass communities are vital to the health of estuaries in the region and support many of the area’s economically important commercial and recreational fisheries.
The Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve is the largest of Florida’s 41 aquatic preserves, spanning more than 984,000 acres. DEP’s Florida Coastal Office manages Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve and St. Martin’s Marsh Aquatic Preserve along with 39 other aquatic preserves, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the Coral Reef Conservation Program. FCO’s programs and activities are designed to help Floridians better understand and conserve the state’s resources through research, education and preservation.