Maine Closes Muscle Ridge Scallop Fishery

FVJulieAnn

The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.

Department dredge surveys along with direct industry reports indicate that harvesting activity in both areas warrants this conservation closure.  “Harvesting activity in these areas has triggered these closures by removing more than 30% of the harvestable biomass,” said DMR Resource Management Coordinator Trisha Cheney. “We have used this trigger mechanism since 2012 as a method to ensure that a sustainable volume of biomass remains on the bottom,” said Cheney.

“Combined with the use of limited access areas, where harvesting only occurs one day a week, and rotational closures, which are similar to crop rotations, the DMR’s management approach has resulted in a steady increase in landings and value for Maine’s scallop fishery,” said Cheney.

The fishery experienced an all-time low in 2005, landing 33,141 meat pounds of scallop meats from Maine waters valued at $272,703.  Working closely with the Scallop Advisory Council and members of the industry the Department has worked to rebuild this once lucrative fishery. The combination of conservation measures appears to be effective as demonstrated by 605,224 meat pounds being landed in 2014 valued at $7,665,815, an 18-fold increase in landings and an almost 28-fold increase in value from 2005, while the fishery has experienced a significant increase in active participation in recent years.

“This season was developed with the understanding that its length far exceeds what the resource can sustain, and that the Department will need to use emergency rulemaking authority during the season to prevent overfishing,” said Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher.  “The industry, through the Scallop Advisory Council, requested that the Department provide a season that extends into April and make adjustments in-season with emergency rulemaking as necessary rather than shorten the season.”