Researchers at William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science have earned nearly $6 million in set-aside funding to advance the understanding and management of sea scallops off the U.S. East Coast.

Announced by NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center and the New England Fishery Management Council, the awards to VIMS account for six of the 15 research projects funded. 

Virginia Institute of Marine Science photo.Support for the projects comes from the 2016 Sea Scallop Research Set-Aside (RSA) program, which derives its funds by setting aside a portion of the annual sea scallop allocation to use as financial support for a competitive grant program. Unique to federal fisheries in the northeast region, RSA programs use no federal funds. Instead, successful applicants partner with the fishing industry to both conduct the research and harvest the set-aside award to generate funds for the research.

This year, program administrators received more than 30 proposals, including half a dozen two-year projects. The proposals were evaluated and ranked based on a two-stage review process that considered both technical merit and responsiveness to New England Fishery Management Council research priorities.

On a sharp downward slide in the 1990s, the sea-scallop industry is now the second most-valuable commercial fishery on the East Coast, with more than $400 million in scallops landed in 2014.

Virginia alone unloaded $33.6 million in scallops in 2014, generating an additional $21 million in economic activity in the Commonwealth for a total impact of nearly $50 million. Virginia’s scallop fleet is based out of ports in the southern portion of Chesapeake Bay, with Newport News and Seaford being home to a large number of vessels. While based in Virginia, scallop vessels fish the continental shelf from the bay mouth north to New England.

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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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