US scallop harvest expected to decline further in 2022
Published: 06/29/2022 17:17:04
The U.S. scallop fishing industry will continue to shrink its catch next year due to a decrease in the availability of the often expensive shellfish off the East Coast, according to federal regulators.
The scallop decline comes as prices for shellfish, one of America’s most lucrative seafoods, have risen amid inflation and fluctuating catches. Seafood counters that sold scallops for $20 a pound to customers two years ago often sell them for $25 a pound or more now.
U.S. scallop anglers harvested more than 60 million pounds of scallops in 2019, but catches have since declined, and anglers are expected to harvest approximately 40 million pounds of scallops in the 2021 fishing year. That number is expected fall to 34 million pounds in the 2022 fishing year, which began this spring, according to the New England Fishery Management Council.
That total would be the lowest since 2014. The council, which is due to discuss the fishery at a meeting in Portland on Thursday, said the scallop population in the Atlantic Ocean is healthy, but the mass of scallops declined from record highs. from several years ago.
The scallop business faces the vagaries of nature, said Andrew Minkiewicz, a Washington attorney who works with the fisheries advocacy group Fisheries Survival Fund.
“But there are signs that things are coming back and that we will be able to accelerate in the future,” he said. “It’s the natural cycle of things right now.”
The scallop industry is based largely in New England, with many scallops also landing in New Jersey and Virginia. The fishery was worth nearly $500 million at the docks in 2020, making it one of the most valuable in America.
But regulators said catches have declined in recent years due to a lack of new scallops entering the population. However, the scallops are not overfished, regulators said.
The value of scallops has increased as the catch has decreased. The value per pound at the docks increased from $9.39 in 2019 to $9.94 in 2020.
In Maine, the value soared more than 50% to a record $15.65 a pound last year, according to state records. However, the state’s catch also fell by about a fifth during this period, to about 533,000 pounds.
“It’s always about Mother Nature too,” said Kristan Porter, a scallop fisherman based in Cutler, Maine. “You never know from one year to the next.”