News Feature

Originally published in Community News, January 23, 2014
State of Maine closes six scalloping grounds less than three weeks after season opens

by Jessica Brophy

The Depart-ment of Marine Resources closed six scallop fishing grounds on January 18, less than three weeks after the season opened on January 1.

The closures include Inner Harbor/Deep Hole/Southeast Harbor off Stonington and Deer Isle, Somes Harbor, Moosabec Reach, Muscle Ridge, Damariscotta River and Waldoboro River.

The state closed the grounds “due to the risk of unusual damage and immanent depletion,” according to a press release from the DMR. The grounds will remain closed through the end of the season, which is March 21. “Scallop populations throughout the state are at extremely low levels,” said the press release.

These grounds had been closed from 2009 to 2011 in an effort to rebuild.

Clare Grindal, Island Ad-Vantages Fish Log columnist, said prices before the closures were $12-13 per pound to draggers, with a retail price to consumers of around $15.

Though the price post-closure wasn’t available at press time, Grindal said she expected the price to go up.

“This is going to make a major change,” said Grindal, “and the price was high anyway.”

Rules about scalloping have tightened in recent years, as “scallop populations throughout the state are at extremely low levels,” said the DMR’s rule-making fact sheet. According to landings data available on the DMR’s website, scallop landings peaked in the early 1980s, with 3.2 million pounds of meat landed in 1981 and 3.8 million pounds in 1982.

Since then, landings have declined precipitously, and less than 1 million pounds have been landed each year since 1997. In the 2000s, landings were less than 200,000 pounds each year. Rules changes are meant to prevent over-harvesting.