Why The Massachusetts Scallop Population Is In Decline


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NANTUCKET, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — The scallop industry is in decline in Massachusetts. According to the Cape Cod Times, the amount of scallop bushels harvested this season dropped from 13,000 to 3,000 in Nantucket.

WBZ NewsRadio spoke with Mike Hickey, the statewide shellfish program manager at the Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries, about why the decline is happening in Nantucket.

Poor water quality is a major part of the problem. According to Hickey, there is too much nitrogen in the water from the number of boats coming in and out, which is inhibiting the scallops' ability to thrive.

"Really then, it comes down to managing the sources of the nitrogen. The entire population is going to have to change the way we do things," Hickey said.

Hickey suggests that human development in the area factors into the decline. And, the problem is not only affecting Nantucket. According to Hickey, scallop season had to be extended in several towns.

"Westport had a banner year last year. Westport had the biggest year they've had in probably over 15 years, and then this year they got nothing," Hickey said.

Also, scallops are having trouble repopulating. "You're talking about an animal that lives on average 22 to 26 months, and spawns once in its life," Hickey said.

According to Hickey, Nantucket has a good re-population program in place despite the problems the scallop population faces. "They run a hatchery out there. They release seed into the environment. They do everything you can possibly do to try to enhance the wild population," Hickey said.

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