Scallop Fisheries Co-Management

The restoration and co-management of Maine’s important winter scallop fishery illustrates our multi-faceted approach to integrating fishermen’s knowledge into science and policy. The fishery has been revived through a new co-management plan that preserves access to fishing and profitability for community scale fishermen.  Landings have trended up steadily since the new plan was put in place.

Scallops are managed with rotating open and closed zones. Scallop co-management between fishermen, DMR and scientists resulted in these rotations. Source: DMR

In 2012, the Maine Department of Marine Resources asked for our collaboration to establish a workable management plan for reopening the previously closed scallop fishery.  In more than 100 meetings held statewide, we used our successful leadership education program for coastal fishermen, Community Fisheries Action Roundtable (C-FAR) to meet with nearly 50 percent of scallop fishermen along the entire Maine coast.

As a result:

  • Fishermen identified three separate ecological and socio-economic areas along Maine’s coast and the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources (DMR) was able to hear them. DMR agreed to manage each area with a slightly different approach.
  • In the area from Penobscot Bay to Lubec, where fishermen wanted rotational areas, fishermen drew many of the management lines that were put directly into regulation.
  • Low daily catch limits were designed to match fishermen’s values for the fishery: steady work near home for as long as possible during the December-March fishery.
  • Close collaboration in the early years between fishermen and DMR staff, supported by MCCF, established a real-time process for DMR to close the fishery based on fishermen’s texting information about catch rates.
  • The science that DMR is using is evolving to support the plan including in-season surveys that are producing new insight into the fishery. Genetic information has shown that some Maine bays have genetically distinct scallops, good reason to manage based on local knowledge and stewardship.

Our Senior Scientist, Dr. Carla Guenther, is now one of two scientists appointed by the DMR Commissioner to the state Scallop Advisory Council. The council, comprised of scallop harvesters, wholesale seafood license holders, scientists, and one member of the public, makes recommendations to the Commissioner concerning state scallop management. Her appointment helps MCCF perpetuate and improve upon early successes in Maine’s resurgent scallop fishery.

In 2017 MCCF is supporting passage of a bill in the state Legislature to make the scallop fishery an owner-operator fishery.  Comparable to the lobster fishery, owner-operator supports the local community scale of the Maine scallop fishery.

Scallop landings and value in this important winter fishery have steadily trended up since the start of co-management. Source: DMR