AUGUSTA — Five weeks into the scallop season the winter weather has begun to take a toll on fishing days, but not on landings. According to the Department of Marine Resources, when fishermen have been able to get off the mooring they have been seeing good landing.
With snow, bitter temperatures and howling winds increasingly the norm since the last week of December, scallopers working outside the well-protected waters of Cobscook Bay got a break — or at least a chance for some relief — when several limited access areas opened to fishing on Monday, Jan. 2.
While four segments of the coast were closed to fishing on New Year’s Day after their harvest targets were reached, the opening of the limited access areas gave an additional opportunity to the drag fleet in more protected waters once a week.
“It was how the season was set up during rulemaking, with five-day weeks in Zone 2 in January and February,” DMR Resource Coordinator Trisha Cheney said Friday. Zone 2 stretches from Penobscot Bay eastward to the Lubec Narrows Bridge.
A number of areas that were subject to close monitoring were closed Jan. 1 after the fishery achieved harvest targets of between 30 percent and 40 percent of the “harvestable biomass” determined DMR using data collected during pre-season surveys. The department used emergency rulemaking in combination with in season monitoring efforts to ensure that the resource continues to rebuild by managing adaptively during the season and ensuring that areas are not overfished.
In-season monitoring efforts have determined that the Narraguagus/Pigeon Hill Bay Rotational Area and the Chandler Bay area have both met harvest targets, so targeted closures for both these areas were implemented Jan. 1. The tradeoff was the opening, on Jan. 2, of the Moosabec Reach Limited Access Area.
“The commissioner decided to postpone implementing the closure until after the holidays in January, when the season was scheduled to go an additional day/week,” Cheney said.
So far, boat prices remain strong, and have even strengthened since the season’s opening.
Many dealers are offering fishermen a “split” price, offering a premium for large U10 (10 meats per pound) scallops above the price paid for “run,” or scallops smaller than U10. Harvesters fishing the lower Blue Hill and Jonesport areas have reported regularly landing U-10s.
The boat price Downeast is currently $13.50 per pound for “run” scallops and even higher for U10s.
Working with industry members all along the coast, DMR currently has several in-season surveys of the scallop resource under way. The results will be compiled with fishermen reports to evaluate whether future management actions are required.
As of late last week, DMR determined that no additional fishing closures were warranted.
According to DMR, the rotational closures implemented in Zone 2 last year are bearing fruit and the same is true for targeted closures in Zone 1, west of Penobscot Bay. Cobscook Bay fishermen continue to catch their daily limit in a couple of hours and are dealing with less competition as the fishing remains strong to the west.
In Zone 1, between the New Hampshire border and Penobscot Bay, most of the fishing activity has been concentrated in Portland Harbor, which was closed last year to protect sublegal scallops. Fishing also has been targeting the Mussel Ridge area farther east.
Surveys conducted by DMR last month determined that Portland Harbor has reached it catch target, while the Hussey Sound/Chandler Cove area contains high concentrations of sublegal scallops, which require protection. Targeted closures in both of these areas went into effect on Jan. 1, although the Hussey Sound/Chandler Bay area remains open to hand harvest by scuba divers, who have negligible impact on sublegal scallops.