Maine scallop season closes to positive signs

Published on
April 17, 2018

Maine, U.S.A.’s scallop season came to a close on 15 April amidst signs that the fishery is in a rebound from its historic collapse in the mid-2000s. 

The season runs from December to April every year. The few divers in the fishery that harvest by hand were allowed to fish through 15 April. Overall, in the 2017-2018 year, harvesters snagged more than 790,000 pounds (358,000 kilograms) of scallops in Maine. 

While that catch from Maine represents just a small part of the scallop fishery on the east coast of the U.S., the news is a good sign that the fishery is rebounding thanks to strict management practices put in place in 2008. At the time, the season was shortened by half, daily catch limits were imposed, and mandatory harvest reports implemented. In addition, closures of certain areas were used to allow younger scallops to grow and reproduce before harvest. 

Those efforts, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources, (MDMR) appear to have worked. 

“Generally speaking, I think this has been another good scallop season with regard to resource availability,” said Melissa Smith, MDMR’s management coordinator for scallops. “There were multiple reports from participating harvesters stating scallops were discovered in areas that haven't had scallops for a decade or more. The expansion of harvestable scallops back to traditional beds is a great indicator of resource growth.”

In the past, multiple rotational zones would have to be closed for conservation measures. Maine’s scallop harvesting area is separated into seven zones, and this year only Zone 2 had to be closed. 

“The other six rotational areas have remained open, except for some have partial conservation closures within the rotation to protect sensitive areas. While emergency actions are still occurring each season, we’re observing that more harvestable area is remaining open during the season, which is another indicator of resource improvement,” Smith said. 

While the increased harvest and rebounding fishery are good signs, the industry as a whole may be on the verge of a price drop. The harvest in the U.S. increased from 33.8 million pounds in 2014 to 40.5 million pounds in 2016 (15.3 million kilograms to 18.3 million kilograms), as imports from other countries also continue to increase. 

Peter Handy, president and CEO of Portland, Maine-based Bristol Seafood, said that might be recipe for a price drop in 2018. 

“There is a lot of anxiety about it. Prices could go down. I can’t think of a scenario in which prices could go up,” he told Boston.com. “The question is, are we standing at the edge of a cliff or are we looking at a little bit of weakness relative to last year?”

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