Aug. 17 marked the first day for the bay scallop season in state waters off Gulf County, including St. Joseph Bay.

This area will remain open through Sept. 30 and includes all state waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County.

Harvesting bay scallops is a fun outdoor activity in which the whole family can participate. It also brings an important economic boost to coastal areas in the open region.

The bay scallop population in Gulf County’s St. Joseph Bay appears to be improving, but is not yet fully recovered from the impacts of a fall 2015 red tide event. Ongoing restoration efforts will continue through the season. In order to maximize the success of these efforts, swimming, boating, fishing and scalloping in the restoration area marked with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission buoys south of Black’s Island are prohibited during and after the scallop season.

The daily bag limit for scallops is two gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or one pint of scallop meat per person. The maximum is 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or half gallon bay scallop meat per vessel.

Boater and scalloper safety

Be safe when diving for scallops. Stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or device when in open water, and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or device if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. Boat operators traveling within 300 feet of a divers-down flag or device in open water or within 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel must slow to idle speed. For more, visit MyFWC.com/Boating/Regulations and click on “Divers-down Warning Devices.” Always remember to properly stow divers-down devices when divers and snorkelers have exited the water.

Information provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.