New England scallop plan development team make 2019 – 2020 quota recommendations - 10.11.18
According to estimates, the scallop biomass will be over 218,000 metric tons, with 114,731 metric tons of exploitable biomass. The team recommended that an allowable biological catch total of 62,989 tons be considered for 2019, of which 57,003 MT is landings and 5,986 MT is discards.
That quota is higher than what was available in 2018, when the allowable biological catch (with discards removed) was 45,950 MT. So far, the fishery has caught close to 30,000 tons in 2018. While that quota is high, the fishery is typically managed more specifically by area.
“These are not directly used in management, except as a cap,” NEFMC member Dvora Hart said. The acceptable catch limit and overfishing limit are numbers required to be established by law, but the council and fishery is managed at a more regional, area-based level to maximize the yield and recruitment of the scallops.
“This concept of ACL and OFL, this may be functional for a lot of fisheries. For this fishery it isn’t, but we’re required by law to do it anyway,” Hart said. “This is required by law, we use it to check the boxes, and then we do real management underneath it.”
The increase in overall quota is related to the high densities of scallops in multiple fishing areas, particularly in the Nantucket Lightship area, according to Hart.
“There’s really really high densities, in many places more than 10 per square meter. And 1 per square meter is high density,” Hart said. “Here we have something an order of magnitude above that.”
The mass of scallops has led the planning development team and the SSC to recommend different data treatments and modeling of the scallops located in the Nantucket Lightship, as the high densities are making it more difficult to ascertain how many scallops there are. Camera-based surveys and dredge-based surveys are resulting in different numbers, due to issues with dredge efficiency.
The team has also recommended different calculations on how large the scallops will be, reducing the growth expectations for high-density areas of scallops. The scallops in those areas have been termed “Peter Pan” scallops.
“They’re called Peter Pan scallops because they didn’t want to grow up,” Hart said. “We’ve had experience in the past where in high-density areas, they don’t grow one year and they grow the other year.”
The smaller scallops led the planning development team to recommend different parameters to the area, as the current predictive model may be overestimating the amount of biomass by assuming those scallops are growing normal.
Regardless of the quota, Hart said she’s confident that overfishing is not occurring, or a risk in the fishery, based on the allowable catch.
“Historically, like this year, we are going to be way way under,” she said. “I can’t see that landings in 2019 are going to be higher than 30,000 tons.”