Theo de Koning assesses one of the lantern nets used to grow scallops. PHOTO COURTESY OF ACADIA AQUA FARMS

Scallop scoping session scheduled for Jan. 29



BAR HARBOR With one lease application still in limbo due to the pandemic, Acadia Aqua Farms has submitted a second application for a 68-acre site in Frenchman Bay. 

A scoping session for what is proposed as a suspended gear operation for farming scallops 4,000 feet from shore and 2,700 feet northeast of Sunken Ledge is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 29 at 5 p.m. on Zoom.  

A scoping session is a meeting where applicants explain their tentative proposal to members of the public who can provide feedback prior to submission of a final application. Once a final application is submitted, a public hearing is scheduled.  

Mainly mussel farmers, the de Koning family, who owns and operates Acadia Aqua Farms, has been experimenting with scallop farming for the last few years in the same spot where they are vying for the 20-year lease.  

“We’ve had the LPAs (Limited Purpose Aquaculture license) now for three years,” said Fiona de Koning in a Zoom call with the Islander. “It’s looking very hopeful for us, so we feel it is only fair and reasonable to be making that transition at this time…We are sort of pioneering a different technique for doing it. It’s new to Maine.” 

As one of the state’s largest mussel farmers, Acadia Aqua Farms has several leases already in place in locations from Mud Cove on the eastern side of Deer Isle to Mount Desert Narrows and two sites in Sorrento. But the last year has been tough for the one-crop business.  

Scallops, in production, on an ear-hanging line.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ACADIA AQUA FARMS

“The reason that we are looking at another species at all is for risk mitigation,” said de Koning. “By depending only on one species, it makes us very vulnerable. We have taken an enormous hit. Mussels are not very pandemic proof at all. It’s a very difficult market for selling a live product.”  

It takes four years for scallops to reach the appropriate size to sell. According to the proposed application, there could be up to four million scallops, in different stages of growth, at the 68-acre site at one time. Three different types of gear are listed in the application to be used to collect the scallop spat and grow the mollusks to full size. They include a long line, lantern nets and an ear-hanging dropper. 

Alex de Koning, the son of Fiona and Theo de Koning, who works with his brother, Max, for the family business,  was recently awarded a grant to purchase a piece of equipment from Japan that threads through scallop shells for ear-hanging them for growth.  

“Scallop farming is a bit of a passion project,” said Alex de Koning in the Zoom call. “What we’re thinking is if we can get to the point where you can farm scallops at a price point where you can afford to sell them just for the adductor muscle – the piece of meat you normally see in a grocery store – if you can figure out how to do that, there’s enough room for anyone in Maine that wants to farm scallops because the market is tremendous.” 

To find out more about joining the Zoom meeting, go to maine.gov/dmr/aquaculture/leases/draftstandardapps.html. 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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