DV-10-04 Characterization of the Maine scallop fishery

Samuel Truesdell

Sea scallops are an important resource for Maine communities, at times being second only to lobster in fisheries value. However, fluctuations in the resource and corresponding management have left production at an all-time low. As scalloping provides winter employment for many Maine fishermen, the lack of recent production is of great concern. The current state of the fishery necessitates strong cooperation between the industry and DMR, but the status of this relationship has not been objectively evaluated. Graduate student Sam Truesdell surveyed 43 scallop fishermen regarding certain aspects of the management process. More specifically, the research (1) determined that the Scallop Advisory Council seems to accurately represent the voice of the industry; (2) addressed some particular questions relevant to current management; and (3) provided historical information on this industry that can further our understanding of a fishery that has limited useable data.

Although there were distinct changes in temporal catch and effort patterns, the character of this fishery has remained much the same. The median boat size has remained between 34 and 38 feet since the 1970s, and the median distance traveled to reach fishing grounds has been 5 miles. Decadal variability in the productivity of the resource has caused the importance of scalloping to Maine fishermen to change over the years. The median percentage of income derived from scallops increased to a high in the 1980s after which it dropped dramatically.

The data suggested a reduction in the productivity of scallops in Maine waters. The best estimate from the survey data is that the current landings per unit effort are 43% of what they were in the 1970s and 1980s. There was no comprehensive evaluation of the character of fishing effort over this period, so this statistic should be considered a rough estimate. While this figure indicates a fishery that is under-producing, it also represents an opportunity: there is considerable room for growth in the state fishery if the scallop population can achieve its previous levels of production.


Total Sea Grant funds: $3,100