Regulation Change May Keep Cape Scallop Fishermen in Local Waters
Father-son duo, Bob & Drew Keese, are scallop fishermen aboard Beggars Banquet. Photo Credit: www.fishypictures.com
By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter
CHATHAM – Local small boat scallop fishermen will be able to fish an area of local waters that has been closed since 2014.
The New England Fishery Management Council has changed regulations to allow for scallop fishing in the Nantucket Lightship Access Area which is about 65 miles southeast of Cape Cod.
Council scientists have assured there will not be any conservation concerns from allowing limited amounts of fishing.
“They decided it doesn’t warrant an entire opening for the whole fleet,” said Bob Keese, a scallop fisherman out of Chatham on the F/V Beggar’s Banquet. “But there are plenty of scallops out there right now to warrant an opening for a small-boat fleet.”
The reopening of the Lightship area will also allow for the depleted near shore waters a chance to replenish, Keese said.
Many local scallop fishermen have left local waters in recent years to fish off the coast of New Jersey in Maryland. The reopening of the Lightship area will help some to stay on the Cape.
“No one really wants to do that. We have to leave our homes. Leave our families and come down and spend money to stay in a place and it’s just not cost effective or family friendly,” Keese said. “So this opening in the Lightship area is going to allow some people to stay at home and fish.”
The council has placed a limit of just 485 small-boat trips to the area this season.
Keese said even with the limited number of trips the area could be open for up to two months, but that many factors could change that.
“It entirely depends on, for one thing, how many boats are fishing the area,” Keese said. “The other factor is the weather. It is 65 miles off shore so with the small boats that typically make up the general category, we are very weather dependent.”
Fishermen will also help researchers to collect data from and monitor the area.
“We are required to take government observers out on the boat every so often and all of that information is gathered and sent to UMass Dartmouth and Massachusetts DMF,” he said. “We are going to work together with them to provide information which will aid in the bycatch avoidance program that we have out there and also just to aid in finding where the small scallops are and where the big scallops are and in the end it should benefit the whole fishery.”
It is not known if the area will only be open this year or will continue to be fished in the future.
“We are going to have to wait,” Keese said. “There is a lot of opposition to this from the bigger fleet.”