The bay scallop season off Gulf County remains postponed due to a naturally occurring algae bloom in St. Joseph Bay. The season postponement will continue until scallop samples test safe for human consumption.
Any updates in status of this fishery will be posted on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) bay scallop webpage, which can be found at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops.”
The bay scallop season postponement includes all state waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County.
All other areas currently open for bay scallop recreational harvest remain unaffected, including the popular scalloping areas of St. Marks, Steinhatchee and Crystal River.
This algae bloom should not impact other recreational activities on St. Joseph Bay.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services had also issued a closure for the harvest of all clams (including pen shells), mussels and oysters in St. Joseph Bay. For information on reopenings of clam, mussel or oyster harvest, visit the FDACS website at FreshFromFlorida.com and search “Shellfish Harvesting Area Information” in the search bar at the top right, select the search result with the same name, then click on “open/close status.”
FWC staff will continue working with other state agencies and the local community as this season closure progresses.
Pseudo-nitzschia, the organism responsible for the bloom and delayed opening of the season, is a naturally occurring microscopic alga that in some cases can produce domoic acid, which can negatively impact marine mammals and seabirds and can cause amnesic shellfish poisoning in humans if contaminated shellfish, including mussels, oysters, clams, and scallops, are consumed. ASP can cause both gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea and upset stomach, as well as neurological issues such as short-term memory loss. Domoic acid has been confirmed in seawater and scallop samples from St. Joseph Bay. Domoic acid does not impact finfish directly, but fish should be rinsed well, filleted and skinned prior to being eaten. The best way to protect yourself is to heed closure warnings and not consume shellfish from the closed areas.
If you are experiencing symptoms of ASP, contact your primary care provider. You may also want to contact the Florida Poison Control Hotline at 800-222-1222. For Department of Health questions, call 850-245-4250.