HALLOWELL, Maine — Six areas along the Maine coast where scallops had been allowed to be caught on a limited basis were closed to harvesting, effective immediately, for the remainder of the season.
The closure was announced Saturday by the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Commissioner Patrick Keliher has the authority to impose emergency closures for up to 90 days.
That 90-day closure will go beyond the scheduled March 21 closure for those scallop grounds, said Trisha Cheney De Graaf who is the resource coordinator for scallops, urchins, and groundfish for the department.
The closure was imposed because of evidence that the resource in those areas was being significantly depleted, the DMR official said Saturday.
The areas closed are Moosabec Reach in Jonesport; the inner harbor, deep hole, and Southeast Harbor in Stonington; Somes Harbor off Mount Desert Island, the Damariscotta River; and the Medomak River in Waldoboro. The closure of Muscle Ridge in the Spruce Head area is for Fridays only.
The closure announcement was made Saturday, she said, to give enough time to inform harvesters. Scallop dragging is not allowed on weekends so the next day that harvesting would have been allowed would have been Monday. She said that email notices are being sent out, the notices were published in Maine newspapers on Saturday, and Marine Patrol officers are getting the word out to fishermen.
The six areas where closures have taken effect were all ones that had been closed from 2009 through 2011 and have since had limited harvesting.
These areas opened on Jan. 1. She said the areas received a high concentration of fishing effort and surveys of those grounds during the three weeks that they have been open, through conversations with harvesters and marine patrol officers, found that the resource was being depleted.
“The department is concerned that unrestricted harvesting during the remainder of the 2013-14 fishing season may damage sublegal scallops that could be caught during subsequent fishing seasons, as well as reducing the broodstock essential to a recovery in these areas. An immediate conservation closure is necessary to reduce the risk of unusual damage and imminent depletion,” the emergency notice stated.