Sea Scallop Collaborative Research

A collaboration with Maine's fishing dependent communities, sea scallop industries, and Department of Marine Resources to support a resilient and vital future for nearshore sea scallop populations and commercial harvest.


Since 2011, MCCF has engaged Maine’s sea scallop fleet in identifying fishery and community goals for scallop resource management. These discussions included identification of research priorities and management strategies. Through this process, the current spatial management approaches were proposed, modified, and implemented since 2012. During which average annual scallop landings rebounded by 300% and 20% more boats (e.g., captains and crew) are making a ‘day’s pay’ compared to the 2005 historical low. However, fishermen are observing nearshore scallop beds to be increasingly less resilient and are now doubling down on prioritizing research on scallop larval supply, population connectivity, and environmental change to explain scallop catch variability over space and time.

Father and son duo, Marsden and Bob Brewer, of PenBay Farmed Scallops retrieve spat bags. Their juvenile scallop fishing methods and insight, with other harvester and fishermen knowledge, have aided in the formation of this study. Photo credit: Tate Yoder, MCCF


Students take deep dive into Maine scallop education (WABI TV5 News)

Maine researchers, students are sorting through muck and slugs to study baby scallops (Portland Press Herald)

The Challenge

The federal sea scallop fishery is the largest and most valuable wild scallop fishery in the world and among the most lucrative fisheries in the U.S, generating $670 million in 2021 federally and approximately $36 million from 2017-2021 in Maine. 

Additionally, aquaculture, including scallop farming, is rapidly expanding. However, scallop farming relies solely on wild scallop seed, historically captured via larval collectors, or “spat bags,” as hatchery technology is still experimental. 

Understanding larval dynamics is critical for both sectors, yet remains poorly understood. This complicates management and planning for sustainable growth, and may raise concerns over potential competition of larval supply between wild and aquaculture sectors.

The Opportunity

First ever state-wide effort to evaluate larval dynamics along the coast of Maine: By deploying spat collectors across Maine’s coast, this project will provide comprehensive data on scallop larval distribution for the first time. These data will enhance understanding of ecosystem dynamics crucial for both wild and aquaculture industries.

Addressing seed supply concerns: Collaborating with fishermen and farmers to identify optimal spat collection sites reduces uncertainty in seed supply for scallop aquaculture and conflict with wild scallop population dynamics. This knowledge can improve farm efficiency and mitigate barriers to investment in the industry.

Informing state management: The project’s data will inform Maine’s scallop management decisions, by understanding how the wild scallop population is connected, informing rotational area management and assessment of harvest tolerance and resilience in specific areas.

Commercial fisherman Curtis Haycock delivering spat bags to Co-PI Phoebe Jekielek, retrieved from Narraguagus Bay. Photo credit: Tate Yoder, MCCF

Islesboro Central School scan spat bags retrieved from Jerico Bay. Photo credit: Nate Hathaway, Hurricane Island.

Our Aim & Approach

Building trust through collaboration: Involving commercial fishermen and growers in the research process fosters trust, integrates local knowledge, and enhances knowledge sharing among stakeholders and the scientific community. This collaboration supports the growth and sustainability of the scallop industry while fostering the necessary communication for future problem solving.

Community engagement: We will continue to foster collaborative and adaptive fisheries management processes and relationships between fishermen, fishery dependent coastal communities, academic researchers, and fishery managers to build critical decision support through shared learning opportunities as coastal environments and fisheries change. 

Commercial state and federal scallop dragger picks sites for setting Casco Bay spat collection lines. Photo credit: Carla Guenther PhD, MCCF
Commercial state and federal scallop dragger loads spat lines for deployment at Muscongus Bay locations he helped select. Photo credit: Carla Guenther PhD, MCCF
Kindergarten through fifth grade students from Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington communities learn about scallop life history and helped stuff spat bags for the next deployment. Photo credit: Carla Guenther PhD, MCCF
Participating commercial scallop draggers and growers learning about scallop life history, wild population distributions, potential for enhancement, while discussing historical data and identifying site locations for this study. Photo credit: Carla Guenther PhD, MCCF
Fifth grade son of collaborating scallop fisherman assists his father in retrieving spat lines and wrote a report for his science class. Photo credit: Carla Guenther PhD, MCCF
Juvenile scallops. Photo credit: Hurricane Island
Eastern Maine Skippers Students present their scallop-spat based project at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum.
Hurricane Island middle school student helps build spat lines for fall deployment. Photo credit: Hurricane Island
Research team shows state licensed scallop dragger, his crew and son some of the spat we started sorting from the lines he set and retrieved at the Greenhead Lobster tank room in Stonington. Photo credit: Carla Guenther PhD, MCCF
Project leads (from left) Phoebe Jekielek, Caitlin Cleaver, and Carla Guenther, and Madison Maier (back)

Cited Literature & Further Resources

Bayer, S.R., T. Cheney, C. Guenther, and J.A. Sameoto. 2016. Proceedings of the US and Canada Scallop Science Summit: St. Andrews, New Brunswick, May 6-8, 2014. Can. Tech. Rep. Aquat. 

Cole, A., A. Langston, and C. Davis. 2016. Maine aquaculture economic impact report.

Couturier, C. et al. 1995. In: Cold-Water Aquaculture in Atlantic Canada, Chap. 8, pp. 298-340. A, Boghen (ed.), The Canadian Institute for Research on Regional Development, Universite de Moncton, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.

Downeast Institute. (2021). DEI has conducted research to discover how to raise sea scallops, Placopecton magellanicus, for stock enhancement and aquaculture

Fitzgerald, D. (2021). Maine scallop aquaculture report

Labaree, J. (2016). Maine Farmed Shellfish Market Analysis. Portland: GMRI

Maine Department of Maine Resources. (2022). “Historical Maine Fisheries Landings Data”

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2022). “Fisheries Economics of the United States Interactive Tool”. NOAA Fisheries.

Report for the University of Maine Aquaculture Research Institute Econ-Report. Pdf

Stoll, J.S., H.M. Leslie, M.L. Britsch, C. M. Cleaver. 2019. Evaluating aquaculture as a diversification strategy for Maine’s commercial fishing sector in the face of climate change. Marine Policy. 

Tettelbach, S. T., B. J. Peterson, J. M. Carroll, S. W. T. Hughes, D. M. Bonal, A. J. Weinstock, J. R. Europe, B. T. Furman & C. F. Smith. 2013. Priming the larval pump: resurgence of bay scallop recruitment following initiation of intensive restoration efforts. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 478:153-172.

Tian, R. C., Chen, C., Stokesbury, K. D. E., Rothschild, B. J., Cowles, G. W., Xu, Q., Hu, S., Harris, B. P., and Marino II, M. C. 2009. Dispersal and settlement of sea scallop larvae spawned in the fishery closed areas on Georges Bank. – ICES Journal of Marine Science, 66: 2155–2164.