ELLSWORTH, Maine — The winter scallop season may be over, but state officials still hope to hear from the public about closure areas and potential new ways to manage the fishery in coming years.
The Scallop Advisory Council, a fishermen’s group that advises the Maine Department of Marine Resources on scallop fishery issues, has scheduled public meetings along the coast.
The council is scheduled to meet 6:30-9:30 tonight at the town office in Yarmouth. Five other meetings are scheduled over the next two weeks, each 6-9 p.m. The meeting dates and locations are:
• Wednesday, April 8, at Rockland Ferry Terminal.
• Thursday, April 9, at Ellsworth City Hall.
• Monday, April 13, at Eastport Marine Trade Center.
• Tuesday, April 14, at Jonesport High School.
• Wednesday, April 15, at University of Maine at Machias Science Building.
In a prepared statement about the meetings, state officials said they intend to close as-yet-undecided portions of state waters to scallop harvesting before the 2009-10 season opens next winter.
Citing evidence of depleted scallop populations, the marine department announced in January that it intended to cancel the entire second half of the 2008-09 season, which ran from Feb. 25 through the end of March. Department officials changed their minds after they realized they legally could order spot closures instead of closing down the entire coastline.
After holding several quickly arranged meetings, the department decided to enact temporary emergency closures for all of Cobscook Bay, most of state waters off York County, and some of the coastal waters off Addison, Jonesport and Beals. Parts of Blue Hill, Casco, Frenchman and Penobscot bays also were closed to scallop harvesting.
State officials have said they expect the next rounds of closures to last at least three years.
The department also has indicated an interest in considering adopting an area management system for the scallop fishery, rather than having all open parts of the coast accessible to anyone with a state scalloping license. The issue of area management will be discussed at the announced meetings as time allows, according to the department.
The advisory council expects to make closure recommendations to the department by no later than early June.