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Maine proposes new rules for scallop season

Maine scallop. (Photo Credit: Dept. of Marine Resources State of Maine)
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Thursday, August 14, 2014, 02:40 (GMT + 9)

To balance the success of efforts that are rebuilding Maine’s scallop fishery with industry’s desire for reliable income, the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) has put forward a proposal for the 2014-2015 season that emphasizes emergency rulemaking.

Despite the proposal from the Maine DMR to continue the resource rebuilding efforts of recent years by reducing the number of days draggers and divers can fish by 22 days in zones 1 and 2, and 18 days in zone 3, the Scallop Advisory Council voted during its 30 June meeting to keep the number of days the same as last season.

The Department has chosen to move forward with the SAC recommendation after a series of listening sessions with industry.
“This proposal by DMR reflects the firm commitment by Commissioner Keliher and the Department of Marine Resources not only to the health of the resource, but also to the economic wellbeing of Maine’s hard-working scallop harvesters,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “This is a balancing act. The Department must act swiftly with targeted closures if they detect any impacts to the rebuilding plan, while at the same time continuing to allow for sustainable harvest in other areas.”

“We are putting forth a recommendation that considers industry interest and input,” said DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher. “However this decision runs counter to the advice of our science staff. So we anticipate having to cut days from the season with area closures enacted through emergency rulemaking as we detect depletion of the resource beyond what can be regenerated in a season.”

The number of harvesters between 2008 and 2013 tripled, jumping from 131 to 421, which has increased pressure on the fishery in recent years. “As latent licenses become active in this fishery it places more pressure not just on the resource but also on the resource managers to ensure that industry does not over-harvest areas and jeopardize the future of a fishery on the rebound,” said Commissioner Keliher.

In 2005 an all-time low of just over 33,000 pounds of scallop meats (276,000 pounds of whole scallops including the shell and viscera) were landed from Maine waters. In 2009, 20 per cent of Maine waters were closed to scallop fishing to begin restoring the fishery.

After three years of the rebuilding, the closed areas were reopened in 2012 for fishing as limited access areas and Maine harvesters landed over 280,000 pounds of scallop meats (2.4 million pounds of whole scallops). Also in 2012, three scallop zones were established along the coast to ensure a targeted management approach. Limited access areas, in which harvesting is allowed one day per week and closed when a percentage of the available resource is removed, were also implemented. Rotational closures, an approach similar to crop rotations in agriculture, were also made part of the management regimen.

In 2013 the management efforts continued to pay off with an increase over 2012 in scallop landings of 138,136 meat pounds (without the shell), from 286,411 to 424,547. The growth in landings resulted in more than USD 2 million in additional landed value, which climbed from USD 3,191,147 to USD 5,194,553.

The 2014-2015 proposal calls for a 70-day season in Zones 1 and 2 and a 15 gallon daily limit with separate calendars for divers and draggers as well as one day per week in the Zone 1 Limited Access Areas starting in January. For Zone 3, a 50-day season and 10 gallon daily limit is proposed with separate calendars for divers and draggers and one day per week in the Whiting & Dennys Bays Limited Access Area starting at the beginning of December.

DMR will hold public hearings scheduled for 2-4 September in Brunswick, at the University of Maine-Machias, and in Ellsworth to review all public comment and present a final proposal for the season to the DMR Advisory Council during its fall meeting.

The DMR Advisory Council will review the proposal and provide input to the Commissioner who will then set the season through rulemaking.

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