The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 39 - July 24, 2013

reel time

It’s Scallopalooza time

Sarasota Bay Watch (SBW), the organization that is spearheading scallop restoration in Sarasota Bay, will be holding its third annual fund raising event, dubbed Scallopalooza, on Aug. 3 at the Sarasota Yacht Club. Not only is this an exciting evening of food, fun, information and camaraderie, but it has been responsible for raising the funds that have allowed SBW to release more than 24 million baby scallops (spat) into the bay over the last two years.

Until the late 50s and early 60s, Sarasota Bay had a healthy scallop population. Over the years, due to loss of habitat and poor water quality, this keystone species has been drastically reduced. Working with scientific organizations including Mote Marine Laboratory, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, SBW launched a 10-year restoration program raising scallops in shellfish hatcheries and releasing the larvae into local sea grass beds in the hope that the effort will create a self-perpetuating local population.

Now in its third year of the restoration plan, Sarasota Bay Watch’s efforts have been referred to by Fish and Wildlife Research Scientists as “the most aggressive scallop restoration effort in the state of Florida.”

Scallop restoration was the brain child of Sarasota Bay Watch co-founder John Ryan. Ryan, who works for Sarasota County, was giving a lunch presentation at the yacht club when the topic of restoration came up. Following that meeting Ryan and then club Commandant (now SBW vice president) Jeff Birnbach had discussions with the yacht club that lead to the first Scallopalooza fund-raising event in 2011.

That evening was a great success hosting a sellout crowd of two hundred people and raising over $14,000. The event was repeated in 2012 with an even greater turn out and over $20,000 was raised. A private donation by business owners Ed Chiles, Mike Coleman and Ted LaRoche in November 2012 raised $3,500, allowing seven million more scallops to be released into Sarasota Bay.

The funds are used to purchase scallops raised at Bay Shellfish in Terra Ceia. Owner, entrepreneur and shellfish guru Curt Hemmel raises scallops as well as clams for commercial leases in Florida. Hemmel has worked out the timing of the scallop growth so he can provide the baby scallops in what is known as the attachment phase of their growth.

Essentially this means that they have reached a stage of development where they leave the water column and begin attaching to sea grasses. It is believed that this reduces predation and gives the scallops a better chance at survival.

The timing of releases is critical, and when volunteers and board members of Sarasota Bay Watch get the call from Hemmel, they have to spring into action quickly. The spat are placed into aerated buckets and transported to boats that then transfer them to bay waters. With the help of Mote Marine Laboratory, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, collectors are placed near the releases to monitor the health of the scallops.

Some of the spat are placed in containment booms where they can be more closely monitored and protected. These releases are helpful to scientists studying the bivalves since funds are not available for them to do their own releases. Scallops help clean the water column improving water quality, fish stocks and diversity in general. In areas where they are plentiful and their harvest is allowed, they support a million-dollar commercial scallop industry, benefiting a wide range of businesses from marinas to restaurants and local rental outlets. The hope is that this they can once again flourish in Sarasota Bay.

Scallopaloozastarts with a cash bar at 6 p.m. and followed by dinner at 7 p.m. The Sarasota Yacht Club is located on Sarasota Bay at 1100 John Ringling Boulevard. Individual tickets are $85 per person and include dinner, entertainment and a silent and live auction. There are a limited number of tables available at $750 for 10 and $600 for 8). Dress is coastal casual.

Besides purchasing tickets for Scallopalooza there are opportunities to partner with SBW on the restoration effort. Corporate restoration partners are featured prominently on a banner displayed at scallop restoration events, Scallopalooza and the annual Great Scallop Search.

They are also listed in the Scallopalooza program guide, on the Sarasota Bay Watch website and Facebook page. The banner is also posted boat side on all 2013 scallop releases which are covered by local media. Corporate restoration levels include platinum, gold and silver.

For more information and to purchase you tickets go to the SBW website at or call Ronda Ryan at 941-232-2363. Don’t miss this opportunity for an evening at one of Sarasota’s most spectacular venues. You’ll be helping to realize the dream of a healthy scallop population in Sarasota Bay.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper