NOAA Fisheries and the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils manage the Atlantic sea scallop fishery under the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan (FMP). Implemented in 1982 to restore adult sea scallop stock and reduce yearly fluctuations in stock abundance, the Atlantic Sea Scallop FMP has been successful in the recovery of scallop populations along the US Atlantic resulting in increased landings and revenue.
The fishery is divided into a limited access fleet that includes larger boats that make longer trips, and a general category fleet for smaller boats that make shorter day trips. The majority of the annual catch limit (95 percent) is allocated to the limited access fleet. Sea scallops are managed as single stock in the US Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) although four regional components (Mid‐Atlantic from Virginia to Long Island, Georges Bank, the Great South Channel, and the Gulf of Maine) are recognized which are subsequently divided into six resource areas: Delmarva (Mid‐Atlantic), New York Bight (Mid‐Atlantic), South Channel, southeast part of Georges Bank, northeast peak and northern part of Georges Bank, and the Gulf of Maine. The majority of US assessments and management efforts focus on Georges Bank and the Mid-Atlantic as they account for the largest concentrations of sea scallops along the US Atlantic and therefore the majority of the fishery occurs in these regions.
Among management measures for Atlantic sea scallops are:
- A total allowable catch that is allocated to different groups within the fishery and dependent on permit type and historical catch;
- Days at sea limits and limits to special access areas;
- Crew size limits;
- Requirements for the use of vessel monitoring systems;
- Year-round area closures and rotational closed areas to protect young scallops;
- Additional seasonal closures to protect finfish congregations;
- Gear modifications to reduce bycatch of sea turtles and finfish;
- A total allowable catch (TAC) limit for yellowtail and windowpane flounder bycatch; and,
- A individual fishing quota catch share program (general category fleet only).
There is an Atlantic sea scallop fishery in the Gulf of Maine that operates in both federal and state waters. This particular fishery occurs primarily in state waters and is managed by the State of Maine. NOAA and the fishery management council manage the federal component of this particular fishery.
In 2014, the US Atlantic scallop totaled 33.8 million pounds of sea scallop meats and was valued at more than US $424 million. A 2015 stock assessment indicated that Atlantic sea scallops are not overfished, nor subject to overfishing.
Sea scallops are managed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in Canada. The majority of the fishery occurs off the coast of Nova Scotia and part of the southern coast off of Newfoundland. Georges Banks accounts for 80 percent of the offshore scallop landings. Among measures the DFO has in place for sea scallops are:
- A limited entry program;
- Total allowable catch quotas for each of the six Scallop Fishing Areas (ranging from the St. Pierre Bank off the south coast of Newfoundland to Georges Bank off the southern coast of Nova Scotia);
- Meat counts;
- Electronic vessel and dockside monitoring; and,
- Area closures.
Farming for Atlantic sea scallops has been explored using both suspended, on-bottom, and polyculture techniques in New England and Canada. These efforts have been successful though they occur at a small scale. In the US, the Army Corps of Engineers issues aquaculture permits before a farm can be established, which requires consultation from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and state governments. Additionally, the US Department of Agriculture, US Food and Drug Administration, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the US Coast Guard provide some degree of oversight regarding shellfish aquaculture farms. US shellfish farms must also adhere to federal regulations as outlined in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Clean Water Act (CWA). Additionally, US shellfish farmers often implement best management practices (BMPs) to reduce, minimize, and mitigate the effects of farming on both aquatic and terrestrial resources as well as with interactions with other marine resource users.