Umass Dartmouth And Partners Lead The Way In Scallop Research And Conservation

Dartmouth, MA-This summer fisheries scientists from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth conducted the most comprehensive survey of the Atlantic sea scallop resource ever undertaken.


Dartmouth, MA- This summer fisheries scientists from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth conducted the most comprehensive survey of the Atlantic sea scallop resource ever undertaken. Between May 27 and August 25 of this year, research scientists from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) conducted 9 weeklong cruises, covering 16,600 square nautical miles of sea scallop habitat. 

The survey will provide information on the distribution and abundance of sea scallops and the sea floor habitat from Georges Bank to Virginia. Data from the survey will be used to further the conservation of the valuable scallop resource for the future. 

Sea scallops, Placopecten magellanicus, live in the Atlantic Ocean along the eastern continental shelf of North America from Cape Hateras, North Carolina, to northern Canada. Using a video-sampling system designed by Dr. Kevin Stokesbury, technician Brad Harris, and members of the commercial scallop fishing industry, the SMAST Fisheries Science Group filmed nearly 2,000 stations covering the vast majority of sea scallop habitat in US waters. 

Traditionally, marine shellfish surveys are made using a commercial style dredge modified for research. In contrast, the innovative SMAST video system enables scientists to record live video footage of the scallops in their natural habitat to obtain accurate counts, sizes, and detailed habitat information, including substrate type. 

Brian Rothschild, Dean of the University of Massachusetts Graduate School of Marine Sciences and Technology, said, "The scallop survey breaks new ground in fisheries research and management. The survey has catalogued the scallop abundance and habitat for the entire east coast from Georges Bank to Virginia." 

Stokesbury and Harris designed a portable marine "studio" with underwater cameras and lights attached to a 1000-pound steel pyramid providing live video to the wheelhouse of the vessel. The system can be mounted on any commercial fishing vessel of sufficient size. At each station the pyramid is lowered to rest on the seabed. The procedure is repeated four times at each station and covering 13 square meters of seabed at each station. The vessel then steams off to the next station three miles away. 

Since 1999, Dr. Stokesbury and his students have worked in collaboration with the scallop industry to complete 22 video surveys. "What makes this latest survey remarkable" says Stokesbury, "is that a scientific project of this scope was possible only by the combined efforts of the commercial industry members, the University, and the state of Massachusetts." 

Forming a true partnership, more than 120 commercial scallop vessel owners and a number of processors and fisheries equipment suppliers pooled their resources to underwrite the food, fuel and crew time. Four New Bedford scallop vessels - F/V Huntress, Nordic Pride, Liberty, and Friendship - conducted the survey, and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries provided funds for scientific personnel and equipment. 

The UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology is located on South Rodney French Boulevard in New Bedford, MA. For more information about the school and its programs, visit 

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