ELLSWORTH, Maine — Citing industry concerns about the state of Maine’s scallops, state officials have scheduled an emergency meeting of the Scallop Advisory Council for next week, two days after Christmas.
The meeting will be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 27, at Ellsworth Public Library, officials with the Maine Department of Marine Resources indicated Thursday.
The annual winter scallop-fishing season began Dec. 17, last Saturday. Scallop fishing is not permitted on Thursdays or Fridays this December, so there have been only five open fishing days so far since the season started.
According to state officials, scallop fishermen have told them that the scallops harvested since Saturday in Cobscook Bay have been small in individual size and low in numbers. As a result, some fishermen have contacted state officials to express concern about the apparent poor state of the resource in Cobscook Bay, which generally has been considered one of the best in the state.
According to Deirdre Gilbert of DMR, the meeting has been scheduled to discuss the situation.
Others connected to Maine’s scallop fishery said Tuesday that landings along other parts of the coast seem to be more mixed since the season got under way.
The initial landings in Cobscook Bay would appear to contradict the results of a 2010 survey conducted in the bay and the adjacent St. Croix River, which is divided between Maine and the Canadian province of New Brunswick. The survey suggested that both the overall abundance of scallops and the number of harvestable scallops, which must be 4 inches wide or larger, are on the rise in the bay.
Harvesting scallops has been banned in part of Cobscook Bay since September 2009, when low scallop numbers prompted DMR to close 12 noncontiguous areas along the coast to scallop fishing. The closures were expected to expire with the start of the 2012-2013 winter fishing season, the dates of which have not yet been set.
In 2010, fishermen working along Maine’s coast caught and sold more than 185,000 pounds of scallops for approximately $1.5 million, or about $8 a pound. That total value is about one-tenth of the fishery’s peak value in 1981, when Maine fishermen caught and sold more than 3.8 million pounds of scallops at $4 a pound for a fishery total of $15.2 million.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.