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East Coast scallop decline could concentrate industry in New Bedford

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Sarah Nalven
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Scallop populations remain strong off the coast of Massachusetts despite an overall drop this year along the Eastern Seaboard, according to a release from the New England Fishery Management Council.

Population declines were concentrated in mid-Atlantic waters off the coast of New Jersey and Delaware, according the release, which synthesized results from several scallop surveys.

The mid-Atlantic saw a boom in juvenile scallops in 2013. Many of those scallops have since been fished out, and the population will need time to recover, according to Janice Plante, a spokesperson for the New England Fishery Management Council.

The dip could further concentrate the scallop industry in New Bedford next year.

“So what will happen next year is that we're likely to have less fishing activity in the mid-Atlantic area and a little more fishing activity on Georges Bank,” said Plante.

Sixty miles east of Cape Cod, George’s Bank is a popular harvest area for New Bedford’s scallop fleet. Plante said the region hasn’t seen a major decline in its scallop population. “So the boats that are home-ported in New Bedford will be closer to the ground where most of the fishing activity will take place this year.”

New Bedford is already the nation’s top scallop port. Last year, nearly $380 million-worth of scallops were landed there.

Across the Northeast, the industry is expected to land 39 million pounds of scallops this year, down from 60 million pounds in 2019. Despite the drop, Plante says fishers could benefit from high scallop prices.