DMR sets scallop closures

AUGUSTA — The Department of Marine Resources has imposed immediate “emergency” closures of several scallop fishing areas that became effective this week “due to the risk of imminent depletion and unusual damage” to the resource.

The closed areas are located in: the Chandler Bay/Head Harbor Island area Downeast; Lower Blue Hill Bay and Jericho Bay; the Mid-Penobscot Bay area; around North Haven; the Upper Damariscotta River; and Casco Bay.

Announcing the closures, DMR said that it is concerned that unrestricted harvest during the remainder of the 2016-2017 fishing season in those specific areas may damage sublegal scallops that could be caught during future fishing seasons, as well as reducing broodstock essential to a recovery.

Based on direct input from Marine Patrol and independent industry participants as well as observations made through the department’s monitoring programs, the level of fishing effort in those areas during the fishing season has already topped the 30 percent removal target that ensures the fishery continues to rebuild.

In addition, DMR said, high concentrations of sublegal scallops in Casco Bay require protection from incidental mortality caused by drag gear. Because divers have “negligible impacts” on the sublegal scallop population, diving in Casco Bay will still be allowed when the Zone 1 dive season resumes on March 1. For the time being, divers will also be allowed continued access in North Haven, the Upper Damariscotta River and Lower Blue Hill Bay/Jericho Bay areas.

According to DMR, since the beginning of the scallop season, draggers have had a total of 41 fishing days in these areas while the divers have only had 34 days.

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