UMass Dartmouth scientists discover abundance of small scallops on Georges Bank

Video survey documents 32 percent, 77 million pound increase over 2012; sets stage for decade of strong scallop stocks

UMass Dartmouth scientists announced this week that they have documented a major increase in the scallop population on Georges Bank, setting the stage for a decade of strong scallop stocks. The video-based survey, conducted from May to July 2014, indicated a 32 percent, 77 million pound increase in the scallop population over 2012. The overall stock biomass measured in scallop meat weight is estimated at 320 million pounds compared 243 million pounds observed two years ago. 

On Monday, UMass Dartmouth's School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST) scallop video survey team, led by the Chair of SMAST's Department of Fisheries Oceanography Dr. Kevin D. E. Stokesbury, presented this year's results to the Fishermen's Steering Committee. 

"The extraordinary news is the huge number of new recruits, small scallops less than three inches that will reach commercial size in the next few years," said Dr. Stokesbury. "The increase on Georges Bank is extremely large, 20 billion scallops mostly in the Nantucket Lightship and along the Southern flank, resulting in an overall resource of 26 billion scallops." 

On average there are eight billion scallops in the U.S. resource. In 2003, SMAST observed a large increase in the Mid-Atlantic, about 12 billion scallops, which increased the total stock to 16 billion scallops. These scallops were protected in the Elephant Trunk Closed Area created in 2004 and supported a large part of the fishery for the past 10 years. 

"Large increases of this size in scallop populations seem to occur once every 10 years or so. These small scallops will need to be monitored closely, tracking their distribution and any mortality," said Dr. Stokesbury. "If protected and managed correctly these scallops could insure sustainable catches similar to those over the past 10 years for the next 10 years." 

Total U.S. fleet revenues in 2012 were approximately $550 million. For the 13th year in a row, New Bedford, Massachusetts, had the highest-valued catch ($411 million), due in large part to the highly valued sea scallop fishery. 

The fiscal year 2015 state budget contained $450,000 for SMAST fisheries research. The funding supported new technology developed by Dr. Stokesbury's research team to improve population estimates of groundfish and balance the economic and environmental factors associated with commercial fishing. 

The focus at SMAST is on interdisciplinary basic-to-applied marine science and the development of related innovative technologies. In addition to the scholarly marine science and technology communities, the SMAST mission also emphasizes interaction with regional industry, and government and non-governmental agencies on compelling regional marine-related issues and technological development.

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