The Aquinnah bay scallop season ends Friday, marking what is believed to be the latest date for a bay scallop season closing in the commonwealth.
The scallop season usually runs from fall until the last day of March, but Aquinnah shellfish constable Brian (Chip) Vanderhoop said unusual circumstances led to the extension of the fishery this year.
The commercial season for bay scalloping opened in Aquinnah on Dec. 10, well over a month after the other towns opened their seasons. Mr. Vanderhoop said the scallops were still growing in the fall, and that is why the season opened later.
It proved worthwhile, as the town had one of its largest seasons in some years. Commercial shellfishermen had landed 5,600 bushels by early this week, several days before the season ended. Mr. Vanderhoop said there were 25 commercial shellfishermen out on Menemsha Pond.
Because of concerns about overflooding the market and the impact that would have on pricing, Mr. Vanderhoop said the town kept the daily limit to two bushels. “The market was fragile. We felt that if we put too many out there, the price would drop. I wanted to go for three bushels [as a daily limit], but I’d be chancing the price,” Mr. Vanderhoop said.
He said Hurricane Sandy, which hit in late October, affected the market partly in the form of diminished demand from New York city, where there is ordinarily a large demand for bay scallops. Scallops that would have been bound for New York flooded the market in this area, driving down prices. Meanwhile a bay scallop fishery is emerging again on Long Island, adding to the decreased demand from that area, Mr. Vanderhoop said.
As Aquinnah kept the brakes on its commercial harvest, a large crop of bay scallops flourished in Menemsha Pond. The town applied for an extension to the season early in the spring that would allow scalloping past the March 30 statewide closure. The extension was allowed in April and again in May. In late May the state came to collect samples of bay scallops before approving a June extension, Mr. Vanderhoop said. “I don’t think they ever did this before,” he said.
“There are so many scallops out there. The water temperature was low. Menemsha Pond is one of the coolest ponds on the Island, plus it has higher salinity,” Mr. Vanderhoop said. “This proved a windfall for the Aquinnah scallopers. It was a great season, though it started late,” he said.
Next fall looks good for another bay scallop season. “The seed is out there,” Mr. Vanderhoop said. “There will be a season next year, but not as good as this year.”