Scallops photographed in Southwest Harbor in March 2017. Credit: Bill Trotter

Maine’s 2018 scallop harvest fell by 37 percent in value and by 30 percent in volume from the prior year, according to state officials.

Despite the dropoff, the fishery continues to be relatively productive and lucrative compared to its poor condition in the 2000s.

Maine scallop fishermen netted 563,000 pounds of scallop meat with a cumulative dockside value of $5.9 million in 2018, continuing a streak of six straight years in which the fishery has produced nearly half a million pounds or more of scallop meat and at least $5 million in statewide landings value.

The 2018 drop can be attributed to exceptional numbers the fishery had in 2017, when it hit a 20-year high in volume and its highest value in nearly 25 years. Maine fishermen harvested more than 800,000 pounds of scallop meat in 2017 and cumulatively earned $9.4 million in gross revenue for their efforts.

The fishery’s peak success occurred in 1981, when Maine fishermen earned $15.2 million off a harvest of 3.8 million pounds of scallop meat. Catches dropped off by the mid-1980s and from the late 1990s through the early 2000s, fell even more. In 2004 and again in 2005, the annual harvest fell below 55,000 pounds and $300,000 in value.

In 2009, continuing low numbers prompted the Maine Department of Marine Resources to cut the season short. It then worked out a system of area closures that have allowed fisherman to continue harvesting scallops each winter while allowing scallop populations to recover.

Over the past decade, with the state’s new management system in place, there has been a surge in demand for scallops, which has boosted the price to historic highs. In 2012 the average price paid to scallop fishermen rose above $10 per pound for the first time, and it has stayed there every year since, hitting a record high of $12.81 per pound in 2016 and settling last year at $10.54 per pound.

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....