Guest Column: New Scallop Regulation Supports Small Boat Fleet

Ben Martens is the executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.

Three years ago, the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association (MCFA) began working with fishermen and local businesses to improve scallop management and give a voice to scallop fishermen on important regulatory issues. As a result, the New England Fishery Management Council voted at its October 1 meeting in favor of regulations that protect both the scallop resource and the smaller Northern New England scallop fishermen.
The outcome of the meeting ensures that there will be a scientifically set limit on scallops harvested from the Gulf of Maine and meaningful investments in science and accountability to ensure the resource continues to grow.

The Council moved forward a set of regulations that will set aside the first 800,000 pounds of allowable scallop quota for the Northern Gulf of Maine (NGOM) Permit Holders and General Category IFQ fleet of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. After the first 800,000 pounds any additional quota will be split 95% to the big Limited Access boats and 5% to the NGOM quota. The scallop set-aside will allow for preferential access for the small boats within this area and create stability for the small-boat fleet.
The allowable catch will be set based upon stock assessments in the area, so the decision by the Council does not mean that 800,000 pounds will be available to be caught in 2021. Fishermen should anticipate an allowable catch similar to last year, in the 200,000 to 300,000-pound range.

“The NGOM scallop fishery was established with the goal of preserving a diverse fishery. This decision from the Council does that by allowing small boats to benefit from the recovery of the scallops off the Maine coast while still allowing access for bigger fishing businesses once the resource can support that level of catch. Small boats matter. We don’t often get a win, but after ten years of persistence, we did today,” said Togue Brawn, owner of Downeast Dayboat and a long-time advocate for Maine’s scallop fishermen.

The NEFMC’s decision will preserve access for small boat scallop fishermen. MCFA photo.

Scallops are one of the most valuable commercial fisheries in the United States, but for decades the resource had been absent from the Gulf of Maine. As waters warmed and the state scallop resource rebounded, scallops began to rebuild in offshore federal waters. With the potential growth of the scallop fishery in the Gulf of Maine, access became a contentious issue as businesses from southern New England and the mid-Atlantic vied for access and control of the fishery. In response, fishermen from around the state, the Department of Marine Resources, Downeast Dayboat, and MCFA worked collaboratively to ensure that the small boats had a seat at the table and were heard throughout this process.

This was a big win for Maine’s fishing communities and the diverse fleet along our coast. Fishermen and community members came together to make sure that the resource would be protected and that Maine fishermen could continue to land local scallops.

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