SOUTHWEST HARBOR — From the coast of Maine down to the large fish markets in Gloucester and New Bedford, Mass., scallops are fetching up to $30 a pound and even more, including $35 a pound for frozen, shipped scallops from Greenhead Lobster in Stonington.
Everywhere, scallop prices are up about 50 percent no matter where they come from in Maine, or in Massachusetts. The price may tick south the farther east you go, but local scallopers say the higher prices are well deserved, even if they’re not sure why prices are up.
Scallop fishermen are getting $10 more a pound locally for scallops, from dealers and from direct sales, over last year’s boat and retail prices.
Wood’s Seafood in Bucksport is asking $28 a pound, a price Ed Wood said has held steady six weeks into the season.
“We were selling for like $18 or $19 [a pound],” said Wood, who mainly sells retail. “It’s up about $10 this year from last year.” But sales are down, he noted. “Typically, especially around Christmastime, they used to buy them and give them away for presents. Not so much this year.”
Wood stocks his Central Street seafood market with scallops from the Stonington Lobster Co-op. He said dealers are asking from $21 to $22 a pound and the supply is steady.
“I haven’t had any problems getting scallops,” he said. “I’m sure I could get a better price if I dealt with a fisherman [but] if I deal with dealer, I can pretty much be sure I can get what I want.”
Brooksville scallop fisherman Dana Black, who sells through his own Fresh Maine Scallops, said that last week he was getting $22 per pound from dealers but this week he’s heard the price dropped to $18 per pound.
In past years, Black sold 100 percent of his catch directly to customers, but with pandemic shipping issues, this season about half his catch is going to dealers.
“There’s a lot of people who can’t afford [retail prices],” he said.” I sell to a lot of locals, but when the price goes from $125 to $200 a gallon, that’s a lot of money.”
And his one restaurant customer has balked, too.
“Given the high prices, [it] stopped ordering,” he said.
In Black’s view, the high prices are well deserved, even if he doesn’t know why.
“I guess the price of everything has gone through the roof,” he said. “We deserve the money we’re getting.”
“People forget, the price of scallops is high but everything else has gone up. [Boat] insurance has tripled in the last couple years, fuel has doubled,” he said. “The price of drag chain has doubled. With this price increase in scallops, the only ones who are making extra money at the end of the day is my crew.”
He points to the fact that scallopers can only fish Mondays through Thursdays, sunrise to sunset, and are restrained by a 15-gallon daily catch limit. This season, he said, bad weather has kept his boat frequently moored on legally allowed scallop fishing days.
“The prices are up, but the weather has been horrible,” he said.
Southwest Harbor fisherman Holly Masterson agreed with Black that the high prices are well deserved.
“We feel we’re finally getting what it’s worth for us to go,” she said. “There’s a lot of obvious expense and effort that goes into the fishery, in fuel, gear, having the boat in the water all winter. We feel we’re finally getting what it’s worth for us to go [fishing].”
Masterson and her fishing partner David Horner fish out in Jericho Bay (and also run Acadia Vendors Market in Southwest Harbor). They are asking $22 a pound from local retail buyers for scallops too small to sell to dealers.
“People are willing to pay those prices,” she said.
Meanwhile, dealer prices naturally range by grade.
“The highest price we got was $36.70,” she said. “The lower grades bring roughly $31 [per pound].”
She and Horner sell their catch to an auction through a local go-between.
“He collects all the scallops and brings them to New Bedford, Mass., for the auction, and that’s where the prices are set,” she said.
This year, she said, the price is triple what it’s been in past years.
“People think it’s ridiculous,” she said. “If everyone knew the amount of effort [it takes]. It’s a couple of degrees below zero when we leave … It’s pretty grueling some days.”
For Stonington scallop farmer Marsden Brewer at Red Barn Farm, who’s not limited by zone rules and is geared toward selling 80,000 shell-on scallops this year, the prices are up for one reason.
“They’re really good,” he said.