ELLSWORTH — Hancock County residents can look forward to feasting on freshly harvested sea scallops when the 2020-21 scallop fishing season kicks off in coming weeks. Maine’s scallop fishery landed 415,818 pounds of scallop meats worth $4.359 million in 2019, making it the state’s 10th most lucrative seafood.
On Nov. 5, the Maine Department of Marine Resources announced finalized dates for the 2020-21 scallop fishing season and its three fishery management zones. In Zone 2, which stretches from eastern Penobscot Bay to Quoddy Head in Lubec, licensed scallop divers can commence harvesting Monday, Nov. 23, with their season ending April 24. Scallop draggers’ season gets underway Tuesday, Dec. 1, and closes March 31.
In Zone 3, encompassing Cobscook Bay and the St. Croix River — Maine’s richest scallop fishing grounds — divers can start fishing for the prized bivalves on Dec. 3, with their season closing March 27, while draggers can fish there starting Dec. 1 and ceasing March 24. In Zone 1, from western Penobscot Bay to the New Hampshire border, diving is allowed starting Nov. 17 and wraps up April 24 while dragging runs from Dec. 7 through March 18.
In zones 1 and 2, daily scallop meat possession will be limited to 15 gallons per boat. In Zone 3, ten gallons of shucked scallops will remain as the daily limit. The same limits apply to divers and draggers. For more details, the adopted 2020-2021 season regulations are posted at https://www.maine.gov/dmr/laws-regulations/newly-adopted-regulations.html.
During the scallop season, DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher has the authority to enact immediate emergency closures when the resource is being too heavily harvested. Last February was such case a when Keliher abruptly closed two Zone 2 areas. One closure included Mount Desert Island’s Somes Sound and Great Harbor and waters around the Cranberry Isles and part of the Western Way. The other closure comprised mid-Penobscot Bay waters from near Great Spruce Head Island to Pickering Island.
Eight years ago, the DMR launched a 10-year rotational management plan to better regulate the fishery and protect the then declining scallop resource. In state waters, the plan entails closures of large areas on a three-year rotating basis. The system also includes targeted closures in small areas to protect the scallop broodstock and immature scallop population. Since then, the limits and closures have helped rebuild the resource, but annual scallop landings and revenue have not recovered from the fishery’s heyday back in the 1990s, according to resource managers.
In 2019, Maine’s scallop harvest totaled 414,818 pounds, worth $4.359 million — a 33 percent drop in landings — compared to the 2018 catch of 619,591 pounds, worth $6,506,289. Many factors, however, figure in the scallop fishery’s year-to-year performance from the weather and closures to seafood prices.
“Landings have steadily improved since 2009, when meat pounds (no shell or roe) landed were 79,923 to 415,818 in 2019,” DMR spokesman Jeff Nichols noted Friday, Nov. 6.