Three years ago, the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association (MCFA) began working with fishermen and local businesses to improve scallop management and give a voice to scallop fishermen on important regulatory issues. As a result of the work from these efforts, at a virtual meeting of the New England Fishery Management Council Oct. 1, the Council voted in favor of regulations that protect both the scallop resource and the smaller Northern New England scallop fishing businesses.
The outcome of the meeting ensures that there will be a scientifically set limit on scallops harvested from the Gulf of Maine and meaningful investments in science and accountability to ensure the resource continues to grow.
The Council also voted to set aside a portion of catch specifically for the federally permitted smaller fishing businesses from Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. The scallop set aside will allow for preferential access for the small boats within this area and create stability for the small-boat fleet moving forward.
“The NGOM scallop fishery was established with the goal of preserving a diverse fishery. This decision from the Council does that by allowing small boats to benefit from the recovery of the scallops off the Maine coast while still allowing access for bigger fishing businesses once the resource can support that level of catch. Small-boats matter. We don't often get a win, but after 10 years of persistence, we did today,” said Togue Brawn, owner of Downeast Dayboat and a long-time advocate for Maine’s scallop fishermen.
Scallops are one of the most valuable fisheries in the United States, but for decades the resource had been absent from the Gulf of Maine. As waters warmed and state fisheries rebounded, scallops begun to rebuild in fishing grounds offshore in federal waters. With the potential growth of the scallop fishery in the Gulf of Maine, access became a contentious issue as businesses from Southern New England and the Mid Atlantic vied for access and control of the fishery. In response, fishermen from around the state, the Department of Marine Resources, Downeast Dayboat, and MCFA worked collaboratively to ensure that the small boats had a seat at the table and were heard throughout this process.
“Today was a big win for Maine’s fishing communities and the diverse fleet along our coast. Fishermen and community members came together to make sure that the resource would be protected and that Maine fishermen could continue to land local scallops. This decision and opportunity will help support vibrant working waterfronts and fishing communities in Maine,” said Ben Martens, executive eirector, MCFA.
“Scallops are an important part of my fishing business and I’m thankful for all the work folks like Togue, the staff and Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, and the Department of Marine Resources did to help address these issues and protect Maine’s fishermen,” said Alex Todd, MCFA chairman and scallop fisherman