Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Maine Scallops: Restrictions To Rebounding

A perfectly seared Scallop is a work of culinary wonder.

Scallops are a meaty bivalve, which can be tender and sweet, and can be served in many different ways, from fried scallops to chowders. Approximately twenty years ago, the U.S. scallop industry was on the verge of collapse, so restrictive measures were instituted to protect and reinvigorate the industry. Fortunately, these measures were successful, and some of the restrictions were lifted, though others still exist to continue protecting this valuable species.

New Bedford is the center of the scallop industry, landing about 50 million pounds and constituting about 90% of all scallop landings in the U.S. It is also considered to be the most valuable scallop fishery in the entire world. Though New Bedford gets most of the attention, we should not ignore a much small scallop fishery, that of Maine.

A recent AquaCulture Directory article noted how the Maine scallop industry underwent a series of restrictive measures in 2008, which were initially met with anger from the fishermen. However, when those measures proved successful, the fishermen came around. The number of scallop fishermen has now tripled, to 420. It is said that these Maine scallop fishermen, usually using small boats, can deliver fresher scallops than many from New Bedford.

Further good news comes from a December article in the Bangor Daily News, reporting on the 2014-15 scallop season. Though the season had just started, fishermen were getting some of the highest prices ever on scallops, about $13-$14 per pound. Last season's average price had been $12.24, and that was a record amount. These scallops prices will become around $20 per pound at retail markets and shops. Yes, they are pricey, but a pound can feed several people, making it more economical, and you are also supporting small, local fishermen.

The article also notes the history of scallop landings in Maine, from 3.8 million pounds in 1981, down to a mere 33,000 pounds in the mid-2000s. Restrictive measures have helped landings to rebound so that last year, landings constituted almost 425,000 pounds. Compare that to the 50 million landed in New Bedford. This history extends to scallops prices too, as in 2004, fishermen received a record low of about $4 per pound, which doubled in the next five years. Since doubling, prices have been increasing each year by about a $1.

Restrictive measures on fisheries are necessary to protect species, but they are also intended to protect fishermen, to ensure their is an adequate supply for the future. Yes,such restrictions can be difficult at first, but their eventual success can lead to better prices for fishermen. And we need to support these local fishermen, especially the smaller ones, and pay them fair prices for their seafood. Scallops are delicious, well worth the price, and I recommend you purchase some Maine scallops.Maine fishermen will greatly appreciate it.

1 comment:

Togue said...

Hi Richard - nice piece here. I would love to talk with you some time about Maine's scallop fishery. We produce a product that's far superior to what's available from the Federal fishery (our guys stay out for hours, compared to days or more than a week for trip boats). I'm the one who initiated the changes back in 2008 to bring the fishery back, and now I'm trying to differentiate the product in the marketplace. You can check out my website for more info, but I'd love to chat some time. I can also update you on some exciting news in scallop aquaculture. My website is www. mainedayboatscallops.com