Bay scallops, Argopecten irradians, sustained a valuable commercial and recreational fishery in Florida during the middle part of the last century. In 1994, after decades of declining stocks, state managers closed this fishery to commercial harvest and severely limited the recreational harvest. In Florida, most bay scallops reproduce only once, generally during the fall at an age of roughly 12. The current 10-week recreational harvest season, July 1 through September 10, occurs at a time when somatic and reproductive tissues are changing rapidly in preparation for the fall spawning season. This study describes changes in tissue weights (reproductive, somatic, visceral) during the 2002 harvest season in scallops collected from six subpopulations along Florida's Gulf of Mexico coast. We observed tissue-specific patterns of weight change during the 7-month study and also noted regional differences. In three Panhandle sites (St. Joseph Bay, Lanark Village, and St. Marks), a shift from somatic growth to reproductive growth occurred later in the year and was more intense than in peninsular sites (Steinhatchee, Homosassa and Anclote). We also monitored recruitment of juvenile scallops at three of the sites from July of 2001 through June of 2003. There were protracted fall and winter peaks within a background of constant, low-level recruitment. The harvest limits allow each person to collect two gallons (7.55 L) of whole scallops or one pint (0.47 L) of adductor muscle meat each day. In June, just prior to the harvest season, the number of whole scallops that would be collected varied significantly between sites (range 55–203), as did the equivalent yield of adductor muscles (range 143–342). Muscle size peaked in August or September, depending on location. The allowable number of scallops collected within the volume-based limits had decreased (41–112 whole scallops or 84–116 shucked scallops) and between-site variability in the numerical harvest was lower.
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Vol. 25 • No. 2