ELLSWORTH, Maine — Scallop fishermen could end up facing the same restrictions for the upcoming scallop season that they did this past winter, according to a proposal released this month by state officials.
Like last year, the Maine Department of Marine Resources is proposing to limit scallop fishing along most of the coast to 70 days and in Cobscook Bay to 44 days. Fishermen still would be limited to catching 10 gallons a day in Cobscook Bay on days they are allowed to fish there and, as they were for most of last winter, to 15 gallons a day everywhere else.
DMR has scheduled three public hearings for the proposed rules for the upcoming season, which would start on Dec. 2 and end in March. The hearings will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 3, at the Lincoln County 911 Communications Center in Wiscasset; on Wednesday, Sept. 4, in the Science Building Lecture Hall, at University of Maine at Machias, and on Thursday, Sept. 5, at the City Hall Auditorium in Ellsworth. All hearings will begin at 6 p.m.
The department will accept public comment on the proposed rules until Sept. 16.
Maine’s coastline is divided into three scallop fishing zones, with Cobscook Bay considered Zone 3. Zone 1 extends from the New Hampshire border to western Penobscot Bay, while Zone 2 covers everything from western Penobscot Bay to the bridge between Lubec and Campobello.
The 70 days allowed in zones 1 and 2 would be spread out for divers and draggers between Dec. 2 and March 21, with the season ending for draggers on March 20. For Zone 3, the 44 days of permitted fishing would be spread out between Dec. 2 and the first week of March.
Beginning in January, limited access areas that were created last year from areas that had been closed from late 2009 through early 2012 will be open only one day each week — Mondays for draggers and Wednesday for divers. In addition to the limited access areas, 12 smaller areas between eastern Casco Bay and Chandler Bay will be closed for the 2013-14 season.
As in previous years, any licensed Maine scallop fisherman will continue to be allowed to fish in any open area, regardless of what zone it is in.
Prior to 2009, there were no closed scallop fishing areas along Maine’s coast, but declining stocks then prompted state officials to take action. The state closed a dozen areas along the coast to scallop fishing for three years, with those closures expiring in the spring of 2012.
Last year, the state adopted a rotational closure plan for Zone 2, between western Penobscot Bay and Lubec, that is expected to result in two-thirds of the eastern Maine coastline being closed to scallop fishing from late 2014 to early 2022. Until early 2014, one-third of the areas in Zone 2 will be closed to scallop fishing.
More information about the proposed scallop regulations can be found online at www.maine.gov/dmr.