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Smaller Fishing Boats Struggling to Compete With Industrial Vessels in Gulf of Maine

Regulators are debating federal scallop fishing grounds in the Gulf of Maine.

“That would be devastating,” said Captain Jim Wotton, who has been dragging heavy bags of valuable clams for a long time. The Gulf of Maine has a federal limit for small-boat fisherman already. “They’re taking our future. There won’t be anything for us next year.

Wotton, who fishes out of Friendship, Maine, was referring to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) estimation that because of the new federal regulations, large boats are projected to catch roughly a million pounds of scallops, which is nearly half of the entire area’s estimated supply.

According to the Boston Globe, dozens of industrial-sized boats have been taking the majority of the stock in the Gulf, impacting the lives of the smaller fishermen. Smaller fishermen in these Maine waters have strict quotas on the amount of scallops they are able to catch, but these industrial-sized boats with full teams of fishermen are only limited by the number of days they can cast, and have no limit on the amount of scallops they can catch.

The size of scallops varies across the globe. Atlantic sea scallops are much larger and their shells can grow up to 9 inches in length. Bay scallops, however, are much smaller and only grow to about 4 inches.

The Boston Herald Radio reports that the reason the NOAA isn’t restricting large fishing boats because the money coming from scalloping is going directly to funding marine science projects.

The sale of these scallops will help pay for 17 projects and the NOAA claims the money is coming from the “research set-aside program.”

Some of the marine scientific projects include further Atlantic sea scallop research pertaining to sea turtles and the measurement of swimming capacity for founder species.

“The situation this year can’t continue and support a strong fishery year in and year out in the Gulf of Maine,” added Pete Christopher, a supervisory fishery policy analyst at NOAA Fisheries. “The council needs to change the way the fishery operates.”