The annual Scallop Search led by the nonprofit Sarasota Bay Watch tallied 40 scallops on Saturday, Aug. 23, surpassing the count of 11 from last year. The event drew more than 130 volunteers, strengthening the local community’s commitment to monitor and restore scallop populations in Sarasota Bay.

The search team included many volunteer “citizen scientists” along with Mote Marine Laboratory researchers who are co-leading local efforts to restore scallops. Mote scientist Jim Culter was joined by Dr. Kenji Kitamura from Japan’s Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN), which is documenting the local scallop restoration effort as part of a global study on science and society. Scallops and other important species of shellfish in Florida have seriously declined due to changes such as habitat loss, pollution, dredge-and-fill operations, overharvesting and blooms of harmful algae known as red tides. To restore depleted populations in Sarasota Bay, Mote has teamed up with Sarasota Bay Watch, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Sarasota County, Manatee County, Bay Shellfish Co., local business leaders and most importantly, many volunteer citizen scientists to release hatchery-raised scallops into the Bay and monitor for signs of recovery.

RIHN scientists from Japan are studying the scallop restoration partnership as part of an international study designed to find exemplary case studies of “residential research institutions” — those tied closely to their communities and positioned to exchange knowledge with local communities — working closely with grass

-roots citizen groups to encourage bottom-up solutions to environmental problems.

Photo captions: ABOVE: Mote Marine Laboratory scientist Jim Culter, Mote intern Isabella Soutullo and Japanese scientist Dr. Kenji Kitamura of the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature prepare to search for scallops in Sarasota Bay during the annual Scallop Search led by Sarasota Bay Watch. (Credit Mote Marine Laboratory)
BELOW: Scallop shells on display during a post-search get together held by Sarasota Bay Watch at Mar Vista. (Credit Sarasota Bay Watch)