Maine lawmaker will try again for limit on scallop harvest as industry vows another fight

IndustriesAssociated Press

A Maine legislator says he will try again next year to persuade the Legislature to limit the harvest on the state's popular, meaty scallops.

The fishing industry this year resisted a bill proposed by Rep. Robert Alley, D-Beals, and it later died in committee in April. He had proposed legislation to create a limit of 90 pounds a day per person on wild-caught Maine scallops so future generations, he said, would still be able to harvest them.

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Maine scallops are beloved in culinary circles, typically fetching several dollars more per pound than other Atlantic scallops. This past scalloping season, they frequently sold for more than $20 per pound. They are harvested by drag boats or divers, and the fishery has been recovering after a collapse in the mid-2000s; the state's 2014 catch was the most since 2000.

Alley said he will try to sell scallop fishermen and the public on the idea again next year.

"Some of the young kids that are coming out of high school, they don't have a job, period, and they don't have anything to look forward to as far as having a job," said Alley, a lobsterman. "I'm looking out for the kids who want to have a job and stay here."

Scallop fishermen repeated concerns from this legislative session that the cap would make it difficult to make money.

This past season, which began in December and ended in April, Maine's southern two scallop fishing zones were subject to a limit of about 135 pounds per day. The northernmost zone, which includes scallop-rich Cobscook Bay, had about a 90-pound limit.

Fisherman James Ackley said scallopers who fish outside Cobscook need the extra catch allowance to pay for things like fuel and boat repairs.

"I wish there was an easy fix so everybody who wanted to fish scallops could get into it, but there's not," Ackley said.

The price of Maine scallops at the dock was nearly $13 in 2014, an all-time high, according to state records. State officials say statistics for the 2015 season have not yet been compiled.