In an attempt to close a management loophole that threatens the viability of the Northern Gulf of Maine scallop fishery, Togue Brawn of Maine Dayboat Scallops, Inc., with the support of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, filed an objection to the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) proposed certification of sustainability for the United States Atlantic scallop fishery.
The certification was sought by the American Scallop Association, which represents companies and individuals involved with the Limited Access scallop fleet. The Limited Access scallop fleet is responsible for over 95 percent of northeastern U.S. federal scallop landings, a lucrative fishery worth over $550 million in 2012.
The objection by Brawn, a longtime advocate for the sustainable harvest of Gulf of Maine scallops, was in response to a management loophole which exempts Limited Access permit holders from regulations aimed at rebuilding and protecting the scallop resource in the Gulf of Maine.
Currently the Northern Gulf of Maine scallop management area is governed by a Total Allowable Catch set by a survey of the area, a 200-pound daily possession limit, and a 10.5-foot maximum dredge size. Limited Access permit holders are not bound by any of these regulations which could allow for excessive harvest to a slowly rebuilding resource.
The regulations in the Northern Gulf of Maine Management Area were established to preserve opportunities for small vessels that would have otherwise lost access to the scallop resource. The conservative possession limit and dredge size restriction are designed to prevent overfishing on the scallop resource as it rebuilds.
An Independent Adjudicator, assigned by the Marine Stewardship Council, dismissed the objection brought by Brawn, citing that Limited Access vessels’ fishing activity in the NGOM is controlled by a limited number of days they can fish, and that the overfishing scenario predicted by Brawn is yet to take place.
“I am very disappointed that the Marine Stewardship Council would certify a fishery that contains no real measures to prevent overfishing in the Northern Gulf of Maine,” said Togue Brawn. “This decision deals a significant blow to the integrity and validity of the MSC eco-label.”
“The Gulf of Maine scallop fishery is important to me and to of a lot of Maine fishermen,” said Alex Todd, a scallop fishermen from Chebeague Island. “This decision by the Marine Stewardship Council is putting the future of the scallop fishery in Maine at risk and is incredibly shortsighted.”