Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher announced short-term scallop management measures Thursday for the Cobscook Bay area that will allow fishermen to continue harvesting three days a week. However, the season may still be shortened.
The measures, implemented through emergency rulemaking, go into effect Friday.
“After careful consideration of the comments I received at a meeting with industry last week in Whiting, I have amended an original proposal in order to accommodate the industry’s desire to fish three days a week,” said Keliher in a news release issued by the department. “This measure provides a balance between conserving the resource and protecting economic opportunity for commercial harvesters.”
The latest conservation measures come less than a week after the agency imposed other restrictions on harvesting scallops that included closures in six other parts of the state.
The new conservation closures of Cobscook Bay and the St. Croix River on alternating days aim to provide for three days of fishing in three different areas of Zone 3.
Draggers will be able to fish Mondays in Whiting Bay and Denny’s Bay, Tuesdays in the eastern and southern portions of Cobscook Bay and Johnson Bay as well as Friars Roads off Eastport, and on Wednesdays in the St. Croix River north of a line from Kendall’s Head to Cummings Cove on Deer Island, Canada.
Divers will be able to fish Wednesdays in Whiting and Denny’s bays only, Thursdays in Cobscook Bay only, and Fridays in the St. Croix River only.
The department is concerned that unrestricted harvesting during the remainder of the 2013-14 fishing season may damage sublegal-sized scallops that could be caught during subsequent fishing seasons, as well as reduce the broodstock essential to a recovery in these areas. Therefore, it is unlikely that the entire area will remain open until the end of the season, and a subsequent rulemaking may be necessary. The action announced Thursday will be effective for the next fishing week, Jan. 27-29.
“It’s kind of a compromise,” said Mike Murphy, a dragger from Machiasport who was familiar with the measures. The agency essentially divided up the Cobscook Bay region into three sections and will allow scalloping in a different section for each of the three days. However, he acknowledged the agency may close the fishery prematurely after another week or two.
“It’s as good a deal probably we could get,” said Murphy. “Some people are happy with it. Some people are not happy with it.”
The emergency rulemaking does not include a season reduction for Zone 1 and 2 (New Hampshire-Lubec.) The season for Zone 1 and 2 will remain at five days per week at this time; however, it likely will be reduced to four days per week in a subsequent emergency rulemaking.
Besides considering the input of fishermen, Keliher weighed information from resource management coordinator Trisha DeGraaf, who oversees resource monitoring and management for the fishery. Seventy-three percent of the harvestable biomass of scallops has been removed from the Cobscook region, she reported last week.
“Our monitoring program determined that the estimated harvestable biomass for Cobscook Bay this season is 380,100 pounds,” DeGraaf said Thursday. “After nearly two months of fishing, 278,100 pounds have been harvested in the Cobscook Bay area, which is nearly as much as was landed in the entire state during 2012.”