TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The local nonprofit Tampa Bay Watch is hosting their annual Great Bay Scallop Search this weekend.

Hunting scallops is a fun activity but legally, you can only do so in Pasco County and counties northward.

The population of scallops in Tampa Bay declined in the 1960s and never recovered enough to harvest levels. Efforts to restore the scallop population has been ongoing since the 1990s by releasing grown scallops into protected areas.

Since 2004, Tampa Bay Watch has hosted this annual hunt in Tampa Bay to keep a record of the restoration efforts to see how well they are working. Unfortunately, so far, the scallops counts aren’t high enough to them to be harvested.

Credit: Tampa Bay Watch

They can’t sustain population numbers on their own like the can along the Nature Coast and Big Bend region of Florida.

Scallop populations do ebb and flow annually in those areas but they can recover from a slower year on their own.

Scallops are incredibly important for the water quality every where because they filter out harmful algae and excess nutrients. They can even filter out red tide toxins from the water.

The Tampa Bay Watch Great Bay Scallop Search is full for this year’s event however, every third Saturday in August, they request the help of about 200 volunteers to conduct this survey so be on the look out early next year if you would like to participate!