NEFMC approves scallop framework, projects 52 million pounds in 2020
The New England Fishery Management Council has approved Framework Adjustment 32 to the Atlantic Scallop Fishery Management Plan, giving the first look at what the 2020 scallop season in New England could look like.
The new specifications will most likely result in 52 million pounds of projected landings in 2020, lower than 2019’s projection of more than 62 million pounds. While lower than 2019, the projection is still higher than average, with an expected ex-vessel value of USD 487 million (EUR 438.9 million), according to a release from the council.
While the biomass of scallops in the region remains high, low recruitment has led the Scallop Advisory Panel to support a conservative approach for the 2020 season.
“The full Council endorsed this strategy, cognizant of the fact that recruitment has not been robust,” the NEFMC release states. “While this year’s surveys did find patches of young scallops in some spots, signs of large incoming-year classes were not evident on a wider scale.”
The largest biomasses found during the survey were areas that benefitted from the 2012 and 2013 year classes – which had the highest recruitment event in the fishery’s history. Surveys indicated that the highest density was in the Nantucket Lightship South area, with estimates of 35,000 metric tons – or three billion animals – sitting in the area.
While the density is high, the scallops in that region have remained smaller in size, which takes more work for crews to process. As such, the new framework is allowing an increase in crew size on ships fishing in that area only – bringing the maximum crew size up to 10 on full-time limited access boats and eight on single dredge boats.
In total, the allowances for full-time limited access scallop permit holders are set as follows by the NEFMC:
- One Closed Area II trip at 18,000 pounds
- One Close Area I FLEX trip at 9,000 pounds
- One Nantucket Lightship-North trip at 9,000 pounds
- One Nantucket Lightship-South-Deep trip at 18,000 pounds
- Two Mid-Atlantic Access Area trips at 18,000 pounds each
In addition, the “FLEX” trip in Closed Area I will allow for part, or all of the trip to be fished in the Mid-Atlantic Access Area instead, according to the release. Vessels can also exchange access area allocations with each other in 9,000 pound increments.
“For example, 9,000 pounds from Nantucket Lightship-North could be exchanged for 9,000-pounds from Closed Area II with another permit holder,” the release states.
Framework 32 also comes with changes that are intended to protect the fishery from flatfish bycatch. Closed Area II Scallop Rotational Access Area will have its seasonal closure extended an additional two weeks.
“Compensation fishing under the Scallop Research Set-Aside (RSA) Program will be allowed only on open bottom, in the Mid-Atlantic Access Area, and, to a certain extent, in the Northern Gulf of Maine Management Area,” the release states. “Collectively, these measures will help reduce impacts on Georges Bank yellowtail flounder and northern windowpane flounder, as will the southwest/extension year-round closure in Closed Area II.”
The framework also proposes a total allowable catch of 350,000 pounds for the Northern Gulf of Maine/Stellwagen Bank Management Area. One portion of the Stellwagen Bank area will be closed for two years, as “the 2019 scallop surveys found high densities of small scallops,” which led the council to support the closure in order to allow the scallops to grow.
All of the current framework proposals are still preliminary, as the National Marine Fisheries Service still needs to review and implement it before it is in use.
“The target implementation date is 1 April, 2020, the start of the new scallop fishing year,” the NEFMC release states.
Image courtesy of the New England Fishery Management Council