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Scallop fishermen eye another record year in rebuilt fishery

November 19, 2018

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine scallop fishermen set a 20-year high with last year’s harvest — and now they’re gearing up for the start of what they hope is an even better season.

The state’s rebuilt fishery for scallops, which runs from November to April, is getting started for the winter in the coming days. Many in the state’s seafood industry consider Maine scallops a conservation success story, as the fishery collapsed in the mid-2000s and slowly rebuilt to the point where fishermen last year collected the highest total since 1997.

The state built scallops back from the brink with measures such as enforcing localized closures, rotating open harvesting areas and applying tighter quota limits. Regulators said the approach will continue this year, and fishermen and consumers will benefit.

“They’re landing plenty of them,” said Alex Todd, a scallop fisherman in southern Maine. “I’m sure it’s made a difference.”

Maine’s meaty scallops are beloved in the culinary world, and they often sell for upward of $20 per pound at supermarkets. Most scallops are harvested by boat, though some are taken by divers who fish for them by hand, and the shellfish have been readily available to New England customers in the last few years.

Harvesters brought ashore nearly 800,000 pounds of the scallops during the 2017 calendar year. It was a small fraction of the nationwide sea scallop harvest, but it represented a nearly 24-fold increase from the state’s low year of 2005.

The season for scallop harvesting begins on the state’s southern coast with the divers getting started on Tuesday. Fishermen who work from scallop dragger boats are allowed to start along the northern coast on Dec. 3. Divers can get started on the northern coast on Dec. 1, and draggers can start in the south on Dec. 10.

The most fertile scalloping grounds in the state are in Cobscook Bay, where divers can start Dec. 1 and draggers can begin on Dec. 3. The season will be wrapped up for everybody by April 20.

The state has closed localized areas along the coast to scallop fishing in past years to prevent overharvest. That strategy will continue this year to allow the shellfish to “regenerate sufficiently to ensure a commercial harvest in the future,” the Maine Department of Marine Resources said in a statement.

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