Record level of mid-Atlantic scallop seed

30 May 2012
The pictured scallops were part of a single tow in the Hudson Canyon Closed Area that returned 13,000 juvenile scallops. Credit:VIMS

The pictured scallops were part of a single tow in the Hudson Canyon Closed Area that returned 13,000 juvenile scallops. Credit:VIMS

Recent surveys by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science reveal an unprecedented number of young scallops in two fishery management areas off the mid-Atlantic coast.

They say that the high levels of scallop ‘seed’ should generate significant commercial catches in three years, when the scallops are five years old.

The surveys conducted by VIMS provide the population data needed to determine the abundance and health of adult and juvenile scallops within several offshore zones that are managed on a rotating basis.

Dr David Rudders of the Marine Advisory Services program at VIMS, VIMS emeritus professor Bill DuPaul, and VIMS technician Jessica Bergeron conduct their surveys aboard commercial scallop vessels using a pair of dredges. The standard length for each dredge tow is one nautical mile and each survey trip takes seven to nine days.

The team’s reports of unprecedented numbers of seed scallops come from the first pair of this year’s five scallop-monitoring surveys. The first survey took place between 18-26 April within the DelMarVa Closed Area aboard the F/V Stephanie B II out of Seaford, Virginia. The second took place from 4-9 May within the Hudson Canyon Closed Area aboard the F/V Kathy Ann out of Barnaget Light, New Jersey. 

Prof DuPaul notes that the team “observed a record-breaking number of scallop seed in both closed areas, including a tow in the northern part of the Hudson Canyon Closed Area that returned more than 13,000 seed.”

To put that in perspective, says Dr Rudders, “Anything over 100 seed scallops per tow is pretty good, anything above 1,000 is excellent, and anything above 10,000 is remarkable." He adds, “in the course of the work that has been done at VIMS, this was certainly the most seed scallops over a wide area that we have ever observed.”

“Our findings are important,” says Prof DuPaul, “because they indicate a successful ‘recruitment’ of one-to-two year-old seed scallops. The Mid-Atlantic scallop resource hasn’t had a significant recruitment event in the past several years, which was clearly worrisome. To see the really small seed is very encouraging, as we don’t often see them at all.”

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