Federal Fishery regulators, in an unprecedented move, are closing the northern Gulf of Maine scallop fishery on Friday — a scant two months after it began.
“They’ve been fishing very hard since March — a lot harder than they ever have. We’ve never closed this area before,” says Travis Ford, scallop policy analyst with NOAA Fisheries.
Normally, he says northern Gulf fishermen don’t catch the entire allowable harvest in less than a full year of fishing, which starts on March 1.
This year, the scallop limit, which is normally 70,000 pounds, started off with a lower catch limit than usual — just 67,000 pounds — to account for an overharvest between March 2015 and February of this year.
But Ford says that contributed little to the speed with which the current quota was hit.
Instead, he says scallops are a bit closer to shore and more accessible, as well as larger in size, which means a fisherman can command top dollar.
“So because of the accessibility and the larger scallops that they’re seeing in the area than they had in the past — it increases the effort,” Ford says.
Fishing boats are allowed 200 pounds of scallop meat per trip. A rock bottom price on scallops, Ford says, would be $10 per pound, with $15 and up more usual.
Overall, the area’s scallop fishery is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The northern Gulf of Maine won’t open again for scallop fishing until March 1, 2017.