Scallopers positive despite closures



ELLSWORTH — Scallop harvesters and state officials were optimistic about the fishery when the Scallop Advisory Council met Jan. 22 at the Ellsworth City Hall.

More than 20 fishermen and others gathered along with the nine-member council to hear the results of Department of Marine Resources sea scallop monitoring programs and discuss their experience so far in the 2014-2015 season.

“Right now, we have about 100 boats fishing in Cobscook Bay,” Department of Marine Resources (DMR) scallop resource coordinator Trisha Cheney told the Islander Monday. “Smaller boats like to fish in that geographically protected area even if they have a lower landings limit. It’s more of a guaranteed payday for those who can’t go out further unless the weather is perfect. Even in the outside coast where rotational closure areas are, the resource has performed much better than we had thought.”

The DMR “had originally recommended a 32-day season for Cobscook, which was not accepted by the Advisory Council and industry,” Cheney said at the meeting. “The only way we were willing to agree to the 50-day season that you guys wanted was if we had that two-week break to review our in-season survey data. This year, the area has had less effort overall, and it will open back up for a few more weeks at least.”

DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher was also on hand to listen to harvesters’ comments. “It is always a balancing act every year how Cobscook will affect the rest of the state,” he said. “Data from DMR survey tows, he said, “is lining up with what we estimated.”

Rotational closures aimed at letting scallops grow back in heavily fished areas seem to be working. “Look at this conversation we are having,” council member Andy Mays said. “Each year we have had more and more active participants. Having people land their (limit of) three buckets this late into the season was unheard of five years ago. After ten years of going to the same spots and seeing nothing, I am now excited!”

Cheney noted that the harvesting effort slows down this time of year. “Some people still have a lot of spots they want to try, but we’re on the brink of that transition into the slower part of the season.”

Cheney posted a complete transcript of the meeting, along with slides from DMR scientists’ presentations, on the department’s website over the weekend.

“I wanted people to be able to see what we talked about,” she said, “to quell the fears that this would be a shutdown meeting. Really, it was just a chance to check in mid-season and hear from everyone.”

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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