The Christmas season demand for fresh seafood is giving another jolt to Atlantic sea scallop prices, with $37 to $38 prices reported for U12 product in Massachusetts and New Jersey ports this week.
The holiday peak comes on top of a year with tight supplies, as the scallop fleet and fishery managers wound down pressure on the resource. With the bounteous 2012-2013 class of scallops fading away, supplies will remain tight after the New England Fishery Management Council issued its specifications for the 2022 fishing year.
In New Bedford, the Buyers’ and Sellers Exchange (BASE) seafood auction reported a Dec. 15 price record of $37 per pound paid for U12 Great South Channel scallops landed by the F/V Furious. At Barnegat Light, N.J., scallop prices touched $38.
The new peaks come after a season when the industry bounced back from its covid-19 nightmare of 2020, when prices already were approaching $30 in spring 2021.
The New England Fishery Management Council finalized the 2022 fishing year plan during online meetings Dec. 7-9 and issued the complete decision Dec. 14 on its Amendment 34 changes.
“The Atlantic sea scallop resource is healthy. The stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring,” according to a council statement. “However, the biomass has declined from its record high levels, as was expected to occur, now that the exceptionally strong 2012 year-class on Georges Bank and the 2013 year class in the Mid-Atlantic Access Area are at the end of their life cycles.
“Recruitment of new scallops in the Mid-Atlantic has been below average since 2013. Currently, the highest densities of harvestable scallops within access areas are in Closed Area II on Georges Bank and in the Nantucket Lightship South, which still harbors the last of the 2012 year-class. The highest concentrations of harvestable scallops on ‘open’ bottom are on the Northern and Southern Flank of Georges Bank and in the Great South Channel.”
For the scallop vessels with full-time limited access permits, the council has set three access area trips and 24 open area days. Vessels with full-time limited access permits will be allowed to fish two trips in the Closed Area II Southwest Extension and one trip in the Nantucket Lightship South, with a possession limit of 15,000 pounds.
“Vessels will be allocated a total of 45,000 pounds – 30,000 pounds of which can be fished in Closed Area II and 15,000 pounds in Nantucket Lightship South,” according to the council. Its projection is that “fishing year 2022 landings under Framework 34 are projected to total roughly 34 million pounds, generating an estimated revenue of $437 million using 2021 price data.”