Originally published in The Weekly Packet, December 13, 2012
State closes Blue Hill Bay to scallopers
by Faith DeAmbrose and Jessica Brophy
On December 3, the first day the inner Blue Hill Bay was reopened to scalloping since 2009, the Department of Marine resources promptly ordered the bay closed for the rest of the season due to a “risk of unusual damage and imminent depletion of the Inner Blue Hill Harbor Area,” according to a press release.
Approximately 35 vessels moved into the inner confines of the harbor on December 3, said Harbormaster Denny Robertson, a number that is larger than he has ever seen in the region. “In past years, five [boats] would have been a lot,” he said.
This area was heavily fished by these vessels, “resulting in its immediate depletion,” said the DMR press release. The area will remain closed for the rest of the scallop season, which goes until March.
Robertson said that due to Department of Marine Resources closure of scallop areas in Indian and Cobscook bays, many scallop vessels were forced to move from their usual fishing grounds, which brought a glut of vessels into Blue Hill Bay. While some vessels were from neighboring towns such as Brooklin and Stonington, many others were from places as far off as Eastbrook, Gouldsboro and Beals Island. Robertson said that since December 3, a handful of scallop boats have stayed in close proximity, now prospecting along the Union River, East Blue Hill and along Long Island.
Rules about scalloping have tightened in recent years, as “scallop populations throughout the state are at extremely low levels,” said the DMR’s rule-making fact sheet. According to landings data available on the DMR’s website, scallop landings peaked in the early 1980s, with 3.2 million pounds of meat landed in 1981 and 3.8 million pounds in 1982. Since then, landings have declined precipitously, and less than 1 million pounds have been landed each year since 1997. In the 2000s, landings were less than 200,000 pounds each year. Rules—like the closing of Blue Hill Bay—are meant to prevent over-harvesting.
For more information about scalloping rules, visit maine.gov/dmr/.