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Bumper Baby Scallop Crop Holds Promise For Next Season

Posted in: Mashpee News, Front Page Stories
Aug 29, 2008 - 1:58:26 PM

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MASHPEE- Mashpee’s largest crop of scallop seeds ever is in the town’s upweller tanks, where they are swimming, eating, and growing in preparation to be scattered around Waquoit Bay this fall.
The 1.2 million miniature scallops, about twice the typical crop, were spawned from a bumper yield of scallops raised by Aquacultural Research Center in Dennis this spring, Mashpee Shellfish Constable Richard H. York Jr. said this week.
The town ordered only 200,000, two-millimeter scallops spawned from full-grown oysters taken from Waquoit Bay to the shellfish hatchery, but the abundant crop turned out an extra million 1.5-millimeter scallops, he said.
The scallops, each slightly bigger than this “O” as of Wednesday evening, will be kept in the upweller tanks until October or November, when they will hopefully be an inch in diameter and perhaps large enough to cut down on predation from crabs, fish, and birds, Mr. York said. The survivors should be large enough for harvest by next fall, he said, possibly giving scallop lovers something to look forward to.
Scallop propagation is known to be a risky venture, and in the past the 600,000 seeds put out have turned into an average harvest of about 100 bushels, or 30,000 scallops. The five percent harvest rate is typical for scallops, Mr. York said. “It’s better than nothing,” he said.
Last season, however, due to heavy predation and possibly other unknown causes, the yield was particularly low. This season, which opens October 1, may turn out to be another low year because last fall Mashpee laid out only 100,000 seeds and Falmouth did none. Falmouth, however, is scheduled next week to put out some full-grown scallops for this season, and Mashpee may later as well, he said. Because of an intermunicipal agreement with Falmouth, with a town shellfish license or Wampanoag Tribal ID card, residents can shellfish on either side of the bay, Mr. York said. Scallops must have at least one annual growth ring to be harvested.
“You just have to keep seeding, and some years you get nothing and some years you get a lot,” he said, adding that the same scenario plays out in other regions, like on Long Island, where they seed upward of 20 million scallops a year.
Even with heavy seeding, though, the town’s scallop fishery is but a shadow of what it once was. In 1978, the best year on record in Mashpee, 41,000 bushels, or about 12 million full-grown scallops, were harvested, he said.
In 1991, just 13 years later, the harvest was just 200 bushels. By 1992, the year Mr. York began working for Mashpee, wild scallops had more or less disappeared.