ELLSWORTH — The Department of Marine Resources announced last Friday that it was opening two lotteries for scallop fishing licenses for the upcoming 2019-20 fishing season.
One of the lotteries will be for scallop drag licenses, while the other will be for scallop dive licenses.
Based on the number of licenses retired in 2018, DMR has determined that six scallop drag licenses and four scallop dive licenses will be available for the 2019-20 season.
Both lotteries will remain open until 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 8. According to DMR, two of the scallop drag licenses available will be awarded to individuals between the age of 18 and 30 and two scallop drag licenses will be awarded to individuals 31 years of age or older.
The lotteries were established last year after months of wrangling within the DMR Scallop Advisory Council and the industry over who should qualify to enter the lottery, how the number of licenses available would be determined and a variety of other issues. Ultimately, the Legislature approved a plan last year.
The lotteries are open to Maine residents at least 18 years old who hold a Maine commercial fishing license or have crewed on “an active commercial scallop vessel,” haven’t had a Maine commercial fishing license suspended within the past seven years and are not already licensed to fish for scallops.
Initially, DMR proposed that license hopefuls would get extra chances in each lottery based on several factors related to time spent in the fishery as crew, or before the license moratorium imposed in 2009, participation in “collaborative research programs” or having a particular license to fish for scallops outside of the three-mile limit in federal waters.
The extra chances were unpopular with fishermen, and ultimately the Legislature determined that DMR should give participants an extra chance for each year they entered the lottery but didn’t win a license. This is the second year of the scallop drag license lottery, so people who entered the lottery last year will have two chances to win. Individuals who are entering for the first time this year will have one chance.
What the lottery does not do is increase the number of scallop drag or dive licenses that may be issued. A new license may only be issued after an existing license is surrendered and the number of new licenses available each year will be based on a 1:1 “exit ratio” in each category — one new license for each license surrendered.
DMR and the Scallop Advisory Council will revisit the lottery at least every two years to consider whether the exit ratio, or any other part of the lottery system, should be adjusted.
This year, applicants may enter both lotteries online at maine.gov/scalloplottery or may file a paper application by hand at the DMR offices in Augusta.