Every summer, our Big Bend sea grass beds become home to thousands of delectable bay scallops. The "hot spots" become packed with boatfuls of snorkelers in search of the crusty shells hidden like easter eggs in and around the eel grass. You can't look too closely into the (many) lovely blue eyes of these delicate creatures or you might find it hard to kill and eat them. But year after year, many of us have joyfully filled our bags, shucked out the sweet white muscles, and enjoyed every finger-licking morsel... and year after year, the maturing scallops return, often bountifully.
But after the Gulf Oil Spill in 2010 -- realizing that our scallop populations might be doomed -- John Moran, Eric Zamora, and I set out to photograph these beautiful bivalves. Until then, for all the years I'd been scalloping, I didn't have a single snapshot, much less an artful rendition of the bay scallop. We spent a full day working on this project, and while at the end of the day, we harvested a good dinner's worth, we made sure that our primary "models" went free. Most of the photos here are the ones I made that day, but a few I made in subsequent seasons.
Bivalve from Outerspace.
This was a "failed" test shot as far as ambient light settings - the sea grass was supposed to show in the background. But the underexposure combined with bright flash (in a bag underwater) and the flecks of silt that we had stirred up came together to make this extraterrestrial delight. Nothing was altered here (except the viewer's perception).
The oil spill pollutants didn't make it to our local waters and the scallops remained plentiful, but now there is a new threat: the wastewater of the Georgia-Pacific Foley Cellulose (formerly Buckeye) Pulp Mill in Perry, Florida. For decades, the Mill has discharged its nasty effluent into the once pristine Fenholloway River, turning it into Florida's only Class 5 industrial waterway, a black-sludged riverbed full of toxic chemicals. Foley now has a "plan to clean up" the Fenholloway by building a pipeline all the way to the Gulf -- so instead of flowing down the 24 miles of river to the Gulf, the wastewater will be discharged directly into the coastal Gulf waters, about 20 miles from the scallop beds off St. Marks. Part of the plan is to improve the quality of the effluent before discharging it, but given that our state politicians and their gutted "regulating" agencies have just weakened the standards for toxin discharge concentrations into Florida waters, a healthy level of skepticism seems in order. If the Gulf grass beds that used to be at the mouth of the Fenholloway -- now a dead zone --are any indication, we may be in for severe degradation of our scallop grounds, and the safety of eating the meat of these filter-feeding shellfish, those that dare to venture into the area, may become dubious.
I rarely use this blog as a political soapbox, prefering to entice my readers to visit our wild places and inspire them to find their own voices for stewardship. But what has happened and continues to happen to our state's public lands and waters at the hands of our current short-sighted greedy governor and legislators is just too extreme... and extremely sad. So I am imploring you to get involved, to learn about the issues, and to vote your conscience. You, YOUR VOTE, can make a difference. Here are a couple resources (of many) that can help keep you informed about what is going on: Springs Eternal Project and Florida Clean Water Network. Staying informed and VOTING in every election is a great way to make our marks. (The officials we elect in local and state elections impact our daily lives and environs far more than the big national ones... though this year's presidential race might be an exception.) Thanks for visiting, caring, and sharing! Please leave a comment too!