David Moynahan Photography | Bay Scallops

Bay Scallops

August 01, 2016  •  23 Comments

Bay ScallopBay ScallopI take an intimate look into the delicate blue-eyed bay scallop and wonder how I can kill and eat such a creature.

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.

Bay ScallopsBay ScallopsGulf of Mexico Baroque ScallopsBaroque ScallopsGulf of Mexico, FL

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.

Scallop on EdgeScallop on EdgeGulf of Mexico Blue EyesBlue EyesBay Scallop. Gulf of Mexico Bivalve from OuterspaceBivalve from OuterspaceThis 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). Gulf of Mexico.

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.   

Swimming ScallopSwimming ScallopBay Scallop. Gulf of Mexico

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!




robert byerts(non-registered)
thanks for documenting what we have all seen and making it available for others. As usual, beautiful stuff.
Lucia Delphinus(non-registered)
Thank you David! For all the beauty you add to our lives with your photos and those words of warning and encouragement! This pipeline proposal is appalling! I am very hopeful that concerned citizens will "stand up" against it with their vote and with civil disobedience if necessary! Hope to see you Monday night at Wakulla County BOCC meeting.
David G. Lebow(non-registered)
You are putting your finger on what is the single biggest threat to the future of humanity and the planet that we inhabit: corporate pychopathy and government collusion. From another perspective, the problem is rooted in tribalism which has played a central role in the evolution of our species and now threatens the survival of all species.
Faith Campbell(non-registered)
Photos are compelling and beautiful - and must have posed quite a technical challenge.
I applaud your stepping up on the soapbox - protecting Florida's fresh & coastal waters is so important!!!! And your photos - all your photos - are real motivators and resources in this struggle.

I do my voting in a different state - but the need for people who understand and care about our environment need to be more active everywhere.
Jackie Davidson(non-registered)
First, your photos are awesome!
Keep fighting to save the quality of the river! I suggest trying to get the " river keepers" organization involved in your fight. It is a national organization which fights to persevere the guality of Americans rivers.
Sorry I can't do anything from where I live. We have our own problems with protecting the Pascagoula river!
I wish you the best of luck!
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