Fishery Management Council to hold first scallop leasing meeting in Gloucester

Scallop meat is shucked at sea off Harpswell, Maine. The New England Fishery Management Council is seeking opinions on whether a leasing program is needed, what issues in the fishery would the program address, what are the benefits and drawbacks, and what are the other approaches the council might consider to provide flexibility. Its first scoping meeting is Wednesday,April 27, in Gloucester.

Scallopers, Gloucester will be the scene of the first of seven in-person meetings and two webinars over the next two months as the New England Fishery Management Council conducts scoping for a limited access Atlantic sea scallop program.

The meeting will take place Wednesday, April 27, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Cruiseport Gloucester, 6 Rowe Square.

The Newburyport-based council “is charged with conserving and managing fishery resources from 3 to 200 miles off the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut,” with major ports Gloucester, New Bedford, and including Portland, Maine, according to its website.

“In September of 2022, the council will decide whether to initiate an amendment to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan that may allow the leasing of access area allocations and DAS (days-at-sea) in the Limited Access component of the fishery,” says the council’s scoping document dated April 15. The fishery takes place along the East Coast from Maine to Virginia.

“The council has not taken a position on leasing and first wants to hear from all stakeholders,” it said in a prepared statement.

The council said it is conducting the meetings at the request of a segment of the scallop fishery and is canvassing the public and the industry to gauge support for the proposal.

It is seeking opinions on whether a leasing program is needed, what issues in the fishery would the program address, what are the benefits and drawbacks, and what are the other approaches the council might consider to provide flexibility.

The council wants to hear how the program could affect the scallop resource, permit holders, shore-side businesses, and captains and crew, among other things.

In September, the council will receive a summary of comments from the meetings, webinars and those sent to it in written form and “decide if it will take the next step to initiate an amendment to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan to develop alternatives for a limited access leasing program,” the statement said.

The council established the limited access component of the scallop fishery in 1994 as part of a program to reduce fishing mortality and rebuild the scallop resource in what was an overfished stock at the time, according to the council’s scoping document. Measures were put in place to limit fishing effort, “such as limiting fishing time through days-at-sea management, crew restrictions, gear restrictions, reporting requirements, and vessel upgrade restrictions,” the scoping document states.

All vessels within a certain permit category, full-time, part-time or occasional, were allocated the same number of days at sea. The measures, the scoping document states, “prohibited combining permits or transferring day-at-sea allocations from several vessels onto a single vessel and also established an ownership cap of no more than 5% of the total number of limited access permits issued.”

“If the council were to initiate an amendment to develop a limited access leasing program,” the council’s scoping document goes on to say, “the changes could include but are not limited to: allowing the temporary transfer of days-at-sea or access area allocations from one permit to another, allowing the permanent transfer of days-at-sea or access area allocations from one permit to another, limits on the amount of leased or transferred allocation that may be fished on a single vessel, efficiency adjustments, and vessel power adjustments.”

The council approved its scoping document earlier this month at a Mystic, Connecticut, meeting. The in-person meetings will not have a remote participation option, but two webinars are scheduled for June 17 and 24.

Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-675-2714, or eforman@northofboston.com.

Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-675-2714, or eforman@northofboston.com.

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