Fishermen say lack of moorings could disrupt Maine scallops
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Fishermen in Maine’s lucrative scallop fishery say this year’s season could be disrupted somewhat by a lack of mooring space in one of the state’s most important fishing grounds.
Maine scallops were worth nearly $7.5 million in 2014 — the most in more than 20 years and by far the most since the industry recovered from a near-collapse in the mid-2000s. The richest scallop fishing grounds in the state are in Cobscook Bay on the northeastern coast, an area that fishermen said suffers from a lack of places to tie boats this year.
The collapse of the Eastport breakwater, which also damaged docked scalloping boats, contributed to the lack of space, scallop fisherman Alex Todd said. The loss of space in Eastport led to residual lack of moorings in nearby communities, he said.
However, Todd said he still expects a productive season, as Maine scallops have sold for high prices in recent years. The scallops, which are prized in the culinary world, sold for nearly $13 per pound at the dock last year, slightly edging the much larger Massachusetts fleet for the highest price per pound among states with a significant scallop fishery.
The difficulty in tying boats could lead some fishermen to seek scallops elsewhere in Maine, which could result in the state shutting down areas sooner, Todd said. State regulators typically shut down scallop fishing areas mid-year when they’ve become heavily harvested.
“Cobscook is a huge part of the scallop resource, and Cobscook usually closes early,” Todd said. “It could decrease the Cobscook effort. It also could shift the effort onto other areas and make them close earlier.”
This year’s Maine scallop season began on Dec. 1 and runs until mid-April. Regulators break up the state into three scalloping zones — the southern coast, the northern coast and Cobscook Bay. The state approved a proposal this year to cut back the number of scalloping days in the southern scalloping zone from 70 to 60.
Togue Braun, a scallop dealer who works out of Hancock, said she expects scallop values to hold steady this year. The price per pound has increased every year since 2010.