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DEPT. OF MARINE RESOURCES
Emergency Cobscook Bay Scallop Closure Announced
December 30, 2011
Hallowell - In an effort to protect Maine’s remaining scallop resource from being damaged beyond its ability to recover, Acting Department of Marine Resources (DMR) Commissioner Patrick Keliher has enacted an emergency closure of East and South Bays in Cobscook Bay, effective Monday, January 2, 2012. Following the December 17th opening of the scallop season, the Department began to hear troubling reports from area fishermen of small catches, small meats, and large quantities of sublegal scallops sustaining damage as a result of fishing pressure. These reports were confirmed by Maine Marine Patrol, as well as the Department’s port sampling program. In response to this information, Acting Commissioner Keliher called an emergency public meeting in Whiting on December 27th for local fishermen to discuss the status of the resource, and possible courses of action.
Regarding the emergency closure, Acting Commissioner Keliher stated, “My decision to close East Bay and South Bay, while also leaving a portion of Cobscook Bay open, is an attempt to strike a balance between the protection of the remaining resource, and the need for local fishermen to retain some fishing opportunity during the remainder of the season. I fully recognize the economic hardship that these fishermen are facing, and appreciate their recognition of the resource damage that was being caused by continued fishing at the existing level. I believe that by curtailing fishing effort this season, they will have a much improved harvest next year”.
Continued harvesting in these areas would have damaged the sublegal scallops that could be caught during subsequent fishing seasons, as well as reducing the broodstock essential to a recovery.
Scallop populations throughout the state, including Cobscook Bay, are at extremely low levels. The Scallop Advisory Council (SAC), which is made up of industry representatives and advises DMR on matters of interest to the scallop industry, has been working with the Department on a strategic plan to rebuild and sustainably manage Maine’s scallop resource with the goal of providing stability to the industry. An integral part of the plan has been the implementation of 10 conservation closures, representing 20% of Maine’s state waters, which have been closed to fishing since 2009. These closure areas are set to reopen for the 2012/13 fishing season. While requests were received from some members of the industry to consider re-opening these areas for the current season, it was determined that the need to see through the conservation and rebuilding efforts in these areas to provide future fishing opportunities far outweighed the short-term benefit that would result from their immediate opening. Adequate safeguards have not been developed yet to ensure that these areas could be fished safely, and would not be depleted immediately upon reopening. DMR will continue to work with the SAC on developing a sustainable management plan that will allow for sustainable and safe fishing when the closed areas are slated to reopen. This additional closure in Cobscook Bay may provide an opportunity for the DMR, the SAC and industry to consider a rotational management plan for Cobscook Bay for the long-term.
For more information, contact Trisha DeGraaf (207) 624-6554.
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