FORT MYERS, Fla.-
Lee County wants to do a scallop population count in the Pine Island sound, and they need volunteers.
Commercial harvesting of sea scallops in southwest florida was forced to shutdown 25 years ago.
But scientist are cautiously optimistic that Pine Island sound is proving to be a better host for sea scallops than in years past.
They're numbers seem to be improving...but the only way to know for sure is with a special population count... and that's where you come in!
Scallops are sensitive to environmental degradation.
Water quality and health of the sea grass beds is critical.
Joy Hazell from University of Florida is in charge of keeping track of the scallop population in southwest Florida.
She says "scallops are sort of the canary in the coal mine."
They were pretty much wiped out by the late 80's in pine island sound.
In 2005 a team re-introduced the population to the area.
For the past three years, Hazell has led a team of volunteers to check on their progress.
They're finding that the numbers are starting to creep up, so she's cautiously optimistic.
Hazell added that "because the sea grasses and the water quality in Pine Island sound has recovered somewhat ... and we think its recovered to the point it will support a scallop population."
But Hazell has one reason to be concerned because "we had a red tide... so we don't know how that is going to affect the scallop population."
They will find out next month, when she leads another survey team to check on the scallops.
She's looking for 150 volunteers to help out, with their own snorkel gear, to swim and investigate designated areas.
Anyone interested, who has snorkel gear, is encouraged to sign up.
Just contact Joy Hazell with the UF Sea Grant and Lee County Parks & Recreation (239) 707-1267, (239) 826-4606