The Atlantic sea scallop, Placopecten magellanicus, represents a vital fishery to the U.S. economy and is also the largest wild scallop fishery in the world. This species is harvested in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, from Newfoundland to North Carolina.
The New England Fishery Management Council manages Atlantic sea scallops in cooperation with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council under the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fisheries Management Plan (FMP). The scallop FMP was implemented in 1982 to restore and stabilize adult scallop stocks, requiring that harvestable scallops meet a minimum size.
Dating back to the 1960s, long-term declines in the abundance of Atlantic sea scallops caused new management measures to be introduced in 1994. This program placed a moratorium on new scallop permits, restricted gear, capped crew size at seven, established a more stringent days-at-sea program, and required vessel monitoring systems on limited access scallop vessels.
In 1997, NOAA Fisheries Service and the New England Fishery Management Council determined once again that sea scallops were over-fished and implemented a 1998 rebuilding plan.
Among other management measures implemented since 1998, a 2004 program called for the rotation of open and closed areas to maximize scallop yield.
Between 1994 and 2005, the biomass of sea scallops in the U.S. sector of Georges Bank increased by a factor of about 18, while the biomass of sea scallops in the Mid-Atlantic Bight increased by a factor of about 8. In 2008, researchers discovered a high number of small seed scallops in the Great South Channel of Georges Bank and in other survey areas, marking the highest numbers seen on Georges Bank since 2000 and the second highest in the Mid-Atlantic Bight since 1979.
This recovery of the U.S. sea scallop demonstrates the success of effort controls and area management working in combination. U.S. sea scallop landings averaged about 26,000 metric tons meat weight during 2002-2006, about twice their long-term average.
Currently, Atlantic Sea Scallop population levels are near record highs and the fishery operates at sustainable levels.
Data sourced from National Marine Fisheries Service (www.nmfs.noaa.gov)