ELLSWORTH, Maine — The state’s scallop advisory council is proposing to close nine areas along the coast during the 2009-10 winter scallop fishing season.

The council, made up of scallop harvesters, made its recommendations on Thursday, a week after George Lapointe, commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, released a list of eight proposed closure areas. The final list is expected to be decided upon by September, according to DMR officials

The areas proposed for closure by Lapointe include part of Casco Bay, the Damariscotta River, Mussel Ridge Channel, eastern Deer Isle, southwestern Mount Desert Island, all of Gouldsboro Bay, and either Machias Bay or the bays on either side of Roque Island. According to Togue Brawn, resource management coordinator for DMR, the eighth closure recommended by Lapointe would affect the western end of Cobscook Bay and the St. Croix River. The closure in western Cobscook Bay would prohibit the harvesting of scallops and urchins, she said.

“We felt it was important to give the [scallop advisory council] an idea of what we were looking for,” Brawn said Friday.

The council on Thursday generally agreed with the department’s proposed closures, with a few amendments, according to Brawn. She said the council also proposed a ninth closure area in northern Blue Hill Bay.

The advisory board voted in support of prohibiting scallop and urchin harvesting in western Cobscook Bay, Brawn said, and in favor of splitting the season into two 35-day segments. The season dates likely will match those from last winter, when scalloping was allowed from Dec. 1 to Jan. 4 and from Feb. 25 through the end of March.

Last winter, the state nearly canceled the second half of the scallop season due to concerns about declining scallop stocks in state waters. After initially announcing the second half of the season would be canceled, DMR instead enacted emergency spot closures.

Since late January, the advisory council and DMR officials have been holding public meetings along the coast, first to get feedback about last winter’s proposed emergency closures and then to get recommendations from harvesters about what areas to close this winter.

Brawn said that after DMR scientists, fisheries managers and law enforcement officers review the advisory council’s latest recommendations, the department will hold four more public meetings along the coast, most likely in July, to get more public feedback about the proposed closure areas. Brawn said the tentative sites for the meetings will be Portland, Rockland, Ellsworth and Machias but that meeting times and locations have not yet been decided.

The department hopes to decide upon the final closure list in September, in order to make sure fishermen know well in advance where they will be able to harvest scallops next season, Brawn said.

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....