DMR Finalizes 2017-18 Scallop Season, New Licenses on Horizon

By Sarah Craighead 

Dedmon

 

After the Nov. 8 meeting of the Scallop Advisory Council, the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) announced its final calendar for the 2017-18 fishing season, set to kick off on Dec. 4.

After receiving feedback during a series of three public hearings, the council voted to move all April fishing days into December, when the scallop prices are higher. Mike Murphy of Machiasport sits on the council, and said he approves of the change. “The New Bedford fleet — the largest scallop fleet in the world — opens up April 1 this year,” he said, “and that’s when we’ll lose the price.” 

The council also voted to shift a proposal that would open the waters around Machias Seal Island for one entire month from Dec. 2017 to March 2018. Feedback collected during the public hearings said that December was not the right time due to lobster gear conflict. During the Machias public hearing, Franklin Smith said that fishermen would prefer to drag closer to home during December — when boats meet their quotas quickly — rather than haul the distance out to Machias Seal Island. “It’s a long sail,” he said.

The DMR also revised its proposal to reopen the fishery to new licenses, which have not been issued in eight years. 

The DMR modeled the scallop limited entry proposal on the lobster fishery, which uses an exit ratio to determine how many new licenses can be issued.  The DMR proposes issuing two new scallop licenses for every three that are retired.  

The two licenses will be distributed by lottery — one to someone between the ages of 18 and 31, and the other to someone over 31.  The proposed exit ratio for the less-saturated scallop diving fishery is 1:1.

Though the initial limited entry proposal contained a variety of methods by which prospective fishermen could gain additional entries into the lottery, the DMR is sending their proposal to the legislature with only two. Fishermen can gain additional entries for being a primary crew member onboard an active commercial scallop drag vessel, and/ or having previously held a Maine commercial scallop license.

For divers, extra lottery draws will be given for being a primary crew tender for an active commercial scallop driver, and / or having previously held a Maine commercial scallop dive license.

Because scallop licensing is regulated by major substantive rule, the legislature will be taking a look at it next. The Marine Resources Committee will invite public comment at the hearing, to be scheduled in the new year. Rep. Tuell (R. E-Machias) sits on the committee, and said he does not expect the licensing lottery to be available before the 2019-20 fishing season, though it could possibly be finished as early as late 2018.