National Fisherman

The Sorting Table 

sorting table iconThe Sorting Table features stories from National Fisherman contributors and guest bloggers.

2016 0208 Argopecten irradians bay scallopA live Atlantic bay scallop, photographed at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. Creative Commons photo by Mayscallop.It started over bay scallops.

Or rather, what I know as bay scallops. The little tiny ones. Not the ones you sear and eat maybe six or eight of, but the ones where a satisfying serving is more in the range of 20 (what I now know to refer to as 40/60s). I can remember eating them only a few times in my life, but those meals stand out. When I was younger, bay scallops were on a short list of seafood items I definitively and consistently liked.

I always look for them, but I don’t see them on a lot of menus. When I moved to Maine, I thought I could eat bay scallops all the time, but that was before I realized I didn’t know anything about them.

What characterizes a bay scallop other than being small? I haven’t seen them on a single menu since moving to Maine — though I have eaten some delicious Maine sea scallops — and I started to wonder whether bay scallops were a real thing or a case of mistaken seafood identity.

The person who put me on the path to scallop enlightenment was Togue Brawn of Downeast Dayboat, who works with Maine fishermen to market and sell fresh local sea scallops. She emailed me back in December explaining that “what’s commonly called ‘bay scallops’ are a species of Argopecten that goes only goes as far north as Massachusetts.”

Bay scallops as I know them don’t even exist in Maine? I was crushed.

Some further research revealed that we were talking about Argopecten irradians, which, via three subspecies, has a range from Cape Cod in Massachusetts to the midcoast of eastern Mexico. I learned from a Marine Fisheries Review paper examining bay scallop history that bay scallops supported sizable commercial fisheries in Massachusetts, New York and North Carolina from the 1870s to the mid 1980s, but that population declines since 1985 have decimated commercial fisheries in areas where bay scallops once thrived.

Why? A combination of factors, not fully understood, but stemming in many places from intense brown and red tides in 1985.

Habitat change has also affected the bay scallop. They like to live in beds of eelgrass, which has become less abundant, the composition of the phytoplankton they like to eat has changed, pollution has increased, and waters have warmed, Clyde L. MacKenzie wrote in a 2008 paper published in Marine Fisheries Review. They have a short lifespan — 18-30 months — and seem especially sensitive to environmental factors.

Efforts are underway to restore some traditional bay scallop habitats. In New York, Cornell University is working with Long Island University and Suffolk County to create a bay scallop sanctuary in Peconic Bay.

I’m new to this industry, and when I started researching bay scallops late last year, I was beginning to wonder if they were a figment of my imagination. A marketing concept, perhaps, or a case of seafood fraud. Instead, I’ve learned the beginnings of the story of collapsed fisheries up and down the East Coast. We’re talking about landings that averaged nearly 300,000 bushels of live scallops annually from 1950 to 1985 down to 40,000 bushels annually from 1986 to 2005, according to MacKenzie.

It makes me appreciate, intensely, the bay scallop meals I have eaten over the years. It also has me daydreaming of a trip to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard — where active fisheries still exist — to try and find a fix before the season closes at the end of March. Conscious consumption has become a buzzword, but I can say with certainty that I’ll never take a legitimate bay scallop for granted again.

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Celebrating the life of a seafood leader.

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Hello Bristol Bay,

After two full terms and six years of service to the Bristol Bay fishery and its fishers, I have determined I will not be running for another term on the BBRSDA. This leaves my spot on the board open—but don’t all jump at once!

2016 0118 MattMarinkovichMatt Marinkovich. BBRSDA photo.I came on the BBRSDA board because I was dissatisfied with the performance of the board at the time, and to check my “conspiracy theory” suspicions. Well, there certainly was no conspiracy—just seven opinionated fishermen that weren’t afraid to speak their minds. And when it came time to make a positive difference, I found that job to be significantly more challenging than when I was outside looking in.

In my time on the board I never lost sight that my decisions affect the way 1% of every Bristol Bay driftnetter’s earnings will be spent. I encouraged the evolution from spending $0.00 toward consumer marketing, to being on the verge of implementing a targeted, measureable, and extremely well-planned Bristol Bay sockeye branding campaign that I truly believe will provide a significant long-term benefit to our fishery. I supported efforts when we could make a significant difference in the fight against the Pebble mine, and supported moving away from the issue when the potency of our involvement was diminished. We’ve done fantastic research, sprang for early counting towers and Port Moller test fishing support, and bent over backwards to improve the quality of our fish.

We as Bristol Bay fishermen are going through a difficult time, but the BBRSDA has never been more equipped to make a difference. Our transparency has never been better (but still has room for improvement)—the website has the financials posted quarterly and all minutes posted after they are approved. We have clear and concise Policy and Procedures in place and observed. Member communication is improved. Our committee structure, which was new to the board three years ago and brought with it some distinct growing pains, is now fully developed and set to do some highly effective project planning and implementation. And our new Executive Director is poised to work with a dedicated and focused board on projects that are really going to make a difference.

These, and many more things I didn’t have room to mention, are what I’m proud to say I worked for on my stint on the BBRSDA board. Make no mistake—it is a demanding job, and not one that should be undertaken with a half-hearted effort. The right people on this board can make a difference—and if you are passionate about the fishery, have the integrity needed to oversee the spending of 1% of your friends (and enemies’) earnings, and have the insight to leave petty politics and personal agendas behind and focus on what will make a positive difference to the fishery, then maybe you should consider filling my seat when my term expires.

I’ll see you on the fishing grounds.

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It’s easy to lose track of things during the holiday season and there was plenty of fishing news last month. Gulf of Mexico red snapper quotas, a lawsuit over at-sea monitors, and slave-peeled shrimp topped the headlines. Catch up on all you may have missed.

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The pace of time sometimes seems simultaneously fast and slow, but there’s nothing like looking back over a year to put these feelings in perspective.

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16jan NF FEATspread CrewShots 320pxWideWe love seeing fishermen at work. To go along with our annual crew shots issue, we're also debuting an online slideshow to feature your pictures, and will begin publishing one new crew shot each month in the magazine.

We've kicked things off using photos from the current issue, but we need your help to keep it going!

What's in it for you? Other than the opportunity to show off your boat and your crew, we're also offering a free one-year subscription to National Fisherman for the individual whose photo is featured in the magazine each month.

So send us those pictures — you can submit through our website, or simply send an email to editor Jessica Hathaway.

Photos must be from 2015 or 2016. Please include names (left to right), boat, location, home port, fishery and gear type.


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November was packed with news and events — mid-month saw a successful 2015 renewal of the Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle, and we've got pictures (and video) to prove it. President Obama signed the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act, strengthening the U.S. commitment to fighting seafood fraud. We also took a closer look at Chix Who Fish and explored the cod cycle. Catch up on all you may have missed.

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Already missing the expo? We don't blame you! Take a look back at last week's fun. 


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National Fisherman’s Highli111115 HighlinerProgram 2015The 2015 Highliner Award program. Click for a full-size version.ner Award dates back to 1975 when then-West-Coast-based NF associate editor Robert J. Browning had the idea to recognize fishermen for their overarching contributions to the industry and their communities. In 2015, we welcome three new members to the club, and we have now recognized 120 Highliners since the award’s inception, along with a number of other industry contributors who have received special awards.

Have a look at our 2014 and 2015 Highliner classes, then learn more about our newest inductees in this piece from National Fisherman editor Jessica Hathaway. 

Download the 2015 Highliner Award Program.





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It won't be long until Pacific Marine Expo 2015 is in full swing! As we prepare for this year's event, we put together a slideshow of scenes from past shows. See anyone you know? Bring back memories of events you enjoyed attending? Let us know in the comments, and get excited — it’s almost here! 


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Inside the Industry

(Bloomberg) — After fighting for more than two years to avoid paying almost $1 billion in oil spill damages to Gulf Coast shrimpers, oystermen and seafood processors it claimed didn’t exist, BP Plc has thrown in the towel.


(Bloomberg) — Millions of dead fish stretched out over 200 kilometers of central Vietnamese beaches are posing the biggest test so far for the new government.

The Communist administration led by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has been criticized on social media for a lack of transparency and slow response, with thousands protesting Sunday in major cities and provincial areas.

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