PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A plan to place new restrictions on Maine's scalloping industry is the right way to ensure that the fishery keeps rebuilding, some fishermen say.
Maine's meaty scallops, which are harvested by drag boats and cold-water divers, are prized in restaurants and fish markets. Their value per pound surged to an all-time high last year, frequently topping $20 — several dollars more than other scallops.
The fishery is also on the mend, as fishermen caught nearly 4.9 million pounds of the scallops last year, up from less than 700,000 pounds five years earlier. Catches sometimes topped 10 million pounds in the 1990s.
Trisha Cheney, the state's marine resource management coordinator, said the scallops need additional protections along the state's southern coast, which has lagged in rebuilding, to protect the future of the fishery in that area. The state wants to close some spots to fishing and reduce the number of fishing days from 70 to 60 in the southern area for the upcoming season, which runs December to April.
Portland-based scallop fisherman Alex Todd said he supports the new restrictions. Fishing pressure on scallops has been up in recent years because the price has been high, he said.
"I think it's prudent to help rebuild it," Todd said. "I think it'll add to next year's stock. How much? We'll find out next year."
More fishermen are also participating in the scallop fishery in recent years because the Maine shrimp fishery has been shut down, Cheney said. Scallop fishing, like shrimping, is a winter fishery that typically attracts lobstermen because most don't trap lobsters during the coldest months when the critters move out to deeper water.
"Some people will have to decide this year whether they're going to rig it up or not," she said.
State officials will likely decide whether to enact the proposed restrictions later this month.