PORT ST. JOE, Fla. – It’s been nearly one month since this year’s scallop season was postponed in St. Joseph Bay in Gulf County. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has also issued a closure for the harvest of all clams, mussels and oysters in St. Joseph Bay.
Locals in gulf county are feeling the impact. Usually this time of year, people flock to port St. Joe Marina.
“They want to rent our boats to go fishing, scalloping, snorkeling and sight seeing, and when something like this happens it’s just devastating to us,” said Seahorse Water Safaris Owner Charlene Burke.
She said the first weekend of the expected season she had 30 cancellations.
Florida Fish and Wildlife officials postponed scallop season in St. Joseph Bay due to a naturally occurring algae bloom.
“We should be booked solid and we only have three or four boats going out and they aren’t interested in the scallops… they want to do something else,” said Burke.
The season was slated to open July 25th, but now, a month later, the season is still at a stand still.
“And it’s not just us. It affects bed and breakfasts, the hotels, the restaurants… we just don’t have the people here and really just economically, it’s devastating,” said Burke.
Officials said eating the scallops could cause nausea and upset stomach as well as neurological issues such as short term memory loss.
FWC is testing the water multiple times a week.
“When they get their results they immediately send it out, so they’re working with us and we’ll know as soon as they know,” said Burke.
The Gulf County Tourist Development Council says there’s much more to do besides scalloping.
“The water is completely safe to get in. You can go snorkeling, see sand dollars, starfish, seahorses, all kinds of stuff. The bay is definitely open for business, so we will just wait to hear from FWC and hopefully have a scalloping season,” said Gulf County TDC Marketing Manager Kelli Godwin.
The postponement includes all state waters from Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County.
Other popular scalloping areas like St. Marks, Steinhatchee and Crystal River will remain open.
For the latest information regarding scallop season in St. Joseph Bay visit: http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/