Those living in Pasco County that partake in scalloping season in Florida just got a little more time to go diving for their salty sea snacks.
In partnership with Pasco County, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) issued an Executive Order just over a week ago that temporarily modifies the 2023 open season for scallop harvesting across the Pasco Zone.
The extension stretches the usually 10-day season to just over a month, a whole 37 days. This year's recreational scalloping season will open for Pasco on July 1, and run until August 6, allowing harvests to begin during the weekend before the July 4th holiday.
The dates serve as a trial run with the hope to also support more outdoor recreational opportunities for families and students before they have to return to Pasco County Schools for the 2023-24 school year. While the executive order only applies for Pasco's 2023 season, an FWC representative says long-term season options could make a comeback in the future.
“Extending the season will increase the economic benefits from this popular recreational fishery to local communities in the region,” said Jessica McCawley, Division of Marine Fisheries Management Director. "We will continue these efforts by exploring long-term season options for future years via the formal rulemaking process.”
Between 2017 and 2020, FWC took a pilot approach to establish regionally-specific regulations for bay scalloping while also keeping local population sustainability intact. As a part of this effort, Pasco County was added to the allowable harvest area in 2018.
The Pasco Scalloping Zone includes all Florida waters that are south of the Pasco-Hernando county line, as well as those north of the Anclote Key Lighthouse — which is approximately a third of a mile south of the Pasco-Pinellas county line.
An outline of all of this year's scallop season dates and their area can be seen in the graphic below:
Despite the season being lengthened for Pasco, rules and regulations have stayed the same and will still apply to the area.
According to the FWC, the daily bag limit in the Pasco Zone is 2 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or 1 pint of shucked bay scallop meat per person, with no more than a total of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or a 1/2 gallon (4 pints) of shucked bay scallop meat per vessel.
Throughout the season and region-wide, vessel limits do not allow an individual to exceed their personal bag limit.
All scallops must be collected by hand, or by using a landing or dip net. No commercial harvesting for bay scallops is allowed in The Sunshine State.
For more information about bay scallop regulations, visit the Florida Wildlife Commission's website here.
Article by Rachael Volpe