Nantucket’s family scalloping season begins this morning, and nearly 1,200 shellfish permits were issued to island residents and visitors ahead of opening day.
Nantucket Shellfish Biologist Tara Riley and her team at the town’s Natural Resoures Department recently completed a snorkel survey of the shoreline of Nantucket and Madaket harbors, and said scallopers should have good luck this morning.
“We saw a good amount in the usual spots,” Riley said. “I think Madaket is going to be great for recreational scalloping as it has been in the past. And there are definitely some good areas in Nantucket Harbor too.”
And that wasn’t the only good news for scallopers.
Riley said yesterday that the state Division of Marine Fisheries had agreed to allow scallops to be taken in areas where shellfishing is now prohibited due to a new rule that went into effect earlier this year. Since early May, portions of the harbor in and around the mooring field have been closed to shellfishing due to the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP) mooring area criteria handed down by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The new rule would have meant that popular recreational scalloping areas including the Horseshed, along Hulbert Avenue, and in Madaket from Jackson’s Point to Warren’s Landing, were off-limits until Thursday’s decision by the DMF.
Now they are open for the taking of bay scallops and whelk only.
“We wanted to make sure we could open them for scalloping,” Riley said. “We were really pushing to make sure that happened.” She emphasized that the closure remains in place for other types of shellfish – including clams, quahogs, mussels and oysters – and the town will be stepping up its monitoring and enforcement to ensure there are no violations of the new rule in the mooring field. New signs in English and Spanish have been posted around the island to outline what is open and what is still restricted.
While the scallop population looked decent in the usual areas that are popular during the recreational season, Riley did caution that her survey teams had noticed an increase in macro algae in Madaket, where it appeared as “block wool” covering the eel grass.
The Natural Resources Department team is still on the lookout for juvenile seed scallop populations that might have been missed, and is asking scallopers to notify staff members if any area spotted.
Permits are still available at the Public Safety Facility on Fairgrounds Road, and they cost $35 for island residents (free for those over 60), and $125 for non-residents. Recreational permits allow people to harvest up to one bushel per week during the season, which runs through March 31, 2022. Regulations specify that any scallops taken must have a well-defined growth ring. The commercial scalloping season begins Nov. 1.