The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:

The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.

Maine Department of Marine Resources chart.Department dredge surveys along with direct industry reports indicate that harvesting activity in both areas warrants this conservation closure. “Harvesting activity in these areas has triggered these closures by removing more than thirty percent of the harvestable biomass,” said DMR Resource Management Coordinator Trisha Cheney. “We have used this trigger mechanism since 2012 as a method to ensure that a sustainable volume of biomass remains on the bottom,” said Cheney.

“Combined with the use of limited access areas, where harvesting only occurs one day a week, and rotational closures, which are similar to crop rotations, the DMR’s management approach has resulted in a steady increase in landings and value for Maine’s scallop fishery,” said Cheney.

The fishery experienced an all-time low in 2005, landing 33,141 meat pounds of scallop meats from Maine waters valued at $272,703. Working closely with the Scallop Advisory Council and members of the industry the Department has worked to rebuild this once lucrative fishery. The combination of conservation measures appears to be effective as demonstrated by 605,224 meat pounds being landed in 2014 valued at $7,665,815, an eighteen-fold increase in landings and an almost twenty eight-fold increase in value from 2005, while the fishery has experienced a significant increase in active participation in recent years.

“This season was developed with the understanding that its length far exceeds what the resource can sustain, and that the Department will need to use emergency rulemaking authority during the season to prevent overfishing,” said Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher. “The industry, through the Scallop Advisory Council, requested that the Department provide a season that extends into April and make adjustments in-season with emergency rulemaking as necessary rather than shorten the season.”

“The Department was willing to take this approach in part because this fishery is prosecuted in the winter months, and proposing a very limited season could create an incentive to fish in unsafe conditions,” said Commissioner Keliher.

“The Department will continue to closely monitor harvesting activity and use the trigger mechanism and emergency rulemaking to ensure that a sustainable amount of scallop biomass remains on the bottom so Maine can provide maximum opportunity and flexibility for industry while continuing to rebuild this important fishery,” said Commissioner Keliher.

Maine scallop fishery information including a link to the notice of emergency rulemaking can be found at online.

Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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