Maine’s rebuilt scallop fishery is enjoying high demand from the culinary world for its prized meaty mollusks, and the 2016 season that ended last month is likely to go down as another strong year.
All sea scallops have been growing in value over the past 15 years, and while Maine’s catch is a small fraction of the national total, they are a premium product for which restaurants and consumers pay top dollar.
The Maine scallop fishery dwindled to just about 666,000 pounds in 2009 before rebuilding to more than 3 million pounds in each of the last three years. State fishing managers credit new regulations, including a rotational management system that protects localized areas from being too heavily fished.
The 2016 Maine scallop season, which began in December and ended in April, apparently also was productive, said Trisha Cheney, a marine resource management coordinator with the state. She said the fishery benefits because it can often provide larger scallops than the national fishery, which is anchored in Massachusetts and New Jersey.
“That’s the type of product that high end restaurants are scrambling for,” Cheney said.
Fishermen caught about 200,000 pounds of scallops in December, about in line with the previous two years. December’s catch usually gives an indication of the strength of the season.
Maine scallops have also experienced a surge in price in recent years and sold for a record $12.70 per pound at the dock in 2015. The scallops were selling for about that much during the early part of the 2016 season.
Dana Black, a Blue Hill scallop fisherman who sells his catch from his home, said his prices have crept up from about $11 to $14 per pound over the past five years. He said the rise in value has made for a crowded fishery in recent years, but business has been good.
“I hope it stays that way,” he said.