The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission might cancel the 2016 Bay scallop season in St. Joe Bay because of the impacts of a red tide bloom that occurred months ago.
A persistent red tide bloom plagued St. Joe Bay between October and December of last year.
The red tide dissipated in January.
The timing could not have been worse for bay scallops because red tide bloomed at the same time that scallops spawn and scallop larvae settle in the bay.
FWC said that as a result the local scallop population appears to have been heavily impacted, and may have collapsed.
Biologists say restricting the scallop harvest in all waters west of St. Vincent Island could help the St. Joseph Bay scallop population recover faster by ensuring that any scallops that did survive the red tide are available to reproduce this fall
Recreational bay scallop fishing is a huge draw for Gulf County during the summer months, so closing the season would have a big impact on the area.
FWC held a public meeting on the issue on Wednesday and said over 45 people attended; many offered suggestions on how to protect the scallop population without fully closing the bay scallop season.
FWC officials say they will consider the suggestions before making a final decision on the bay scallop season.