Christmas season driving US scallop prices higher
The Christmas season demand for fresh seafood is giving another jolt to Atlantic sea scallop prices.
The holiday peak comes on top of a year with tight supplies, as the U.S. East Coast scallop fleet and fishery managers wound down pressure on the resource. With the bounteous 2012-2013 class of scallops fading away, supplies will remain tight after the New England Fishery Management Council issued its specifications for the 2022 fishing year.
In New Bedford, the Buyers’ and Sellers Exchange (BASE) seafood auction reported a 15 December price record of USD 37.00 (EUR 32.80) per pound paid for U12 Great South Channel scallops landed by the F/V Furious. At Barnegat Light, New Jersey, scallop prices touched USD 38.00 (EUR 33.70).
The new peaks come after a season when the industry bounced back from its COVID-19 nightmare of 2020, when prices already were approaching USD 30.00 (EUR 26.60) in spring 2021.
The New England Fishery Management Council finalized the 2022 fishing year plan during online meetings 7 to 9 December and issued the complete decision 14 December on its Amendment 34 changes.
“The Atlantic sea scallop resource is healthy. The stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring,” a council statement said. “However, the biomass has declined from its record high levels, as was expected to occur, now that the exceptionally strong 2012 year-class on Georges Bank and the 2013 year-class in the Mid-Atlantic Access Area are at the end of their life cycles.
“Recruitment of new scallops in the Mid-Atlantic has been below average since 2013. Currently, the highest densities of harvestable scallops within access areas are in Closed Area II on Georges Bank and in the Nantucket Lightship South, which still harbors the last of the 2012 year-class,” the council said. “The highest concentrations of harvestable scallops on ‘open’ bottom are on the Northern and Southern Flank of Georges Bank and in the Great South Channel.”
For the scallop vessels with full-time limited access permits, the council has set three access area trips and 24 open-area days. Vessels with full-time limited access permits will be allowed to fish two trips in the Closed Area II Southwest Extension and one trip in the Nantucket Lightship South, with a possession limit of 15,000 pounds.
“Vessels will be allocated a total of 45,000 pounds – 30,000 pounds of which can be fished in Closed Area II and 15,000 pounds in Nantucket Lightship South,” the council said in a statement. “Fishing year 2022 landings under Framework 34 are projected to total roughly 34 million pounds, generating an estimated revenue of USD 437 million [EUR 387 million] using 2021 price data.”
Reporting by Kirk Moore
Photo courtesy of Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences