Fisheries Survival Fund

Fisheries Survival Fund (FSF) was established in 1998 to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Atlantic sea scallop fishery.  FSF participants include the vast majority of full-time Atlantic scallop fishermen from Maine to Virginia.  FSF works with academic institutions and independent scientific experts to foster cooperative research and to help sustain this fully-rebuilt fishery.  FSF also works with the federal government to ensure that the fishery is responsibly managed.

The Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Today

The Atlantic sea scallop fishery is the most valuable fishery in the United States, estimated to be worth $440 million annually in ex vessel value.  The fleet is primarily based in New Bedford, MA, thereby making the port of New Bedford the most valuable fishing port in the United States.  Ultimately, the scallops landed by the fishery generate several times their annual $440 million ex vessel value as they are processed, distributed, and sold in various forms.  This economic achievement is the result of a stunning turnaround in fisheries management that rebuilt the fishery after its near collapse in the early 1990's.  Atlantic scallops are now at or near record levels of abundance.

Building a Sustainable Fishery Management System

Improved management practices and propitious oceanic conditions combined to create a fully rebuilt scallop fishery early in the decade.  The innovative management system pioneered by FSF has helped to build on and maintain this success.  Indeed, recent surveys show the highest level of young scallops entering their second year of life (that is, "recruiting" to the fishery) on record.  To date, FSF:

  • Partnered with University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, School of Marine  Sciences and Technology (SMAST) to conduct a survey to determine the actual state of the Georges Bank scallop beds.  After years of closure, research showed a dramatic re-population of the habitat. Once re-opened, FSF petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to implement a carefully designed access program.  From 2000 through 2004, a series of special access programs provide conservation-friendly and economically important fishing opportunities for scallopers.
  • Worked with independent fishery scientists to develop a groundbreaking rotational scallop management program building on the experience of the Georges Bank program.  NMFS permanently adopted this revolutionary approach for the entire fishery in 2004.
  • Continues to provide financial and logistical support to SMAST and the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences to conduct independent research surveys relating not only to scallop abundance but also marine fish habitat.

The rotational fishing management system has led to an increase in abundance and high catch rates, allowing fishermen to reduce the amount of time scallop dredges are deployed.  This has led to lower operating costs, lower incidental catch of other species and greatly lessened impacts on the marine environment.

Mitigating the Industry's Impact on the Loggerhead Sea Turtle

After decades in which encounters between the scallop fishery and marine turtles were exceedingly rare, encounters spiked in one of the access areas in the Mid-Atlantic during the early 2000s.  While observed encounters have abated, FSF takes this issue very seriously and has been working with gear technologists, scientists and NMFS to address the problem, including:

  • Designing and testing a turtle excluder device to minimize harm inflicted upon turtles.  Following successful tests, FSF petitioned NMFS to mandatethis device's use throughout the fishery.  NMFS formally mandated the device's use in 2006.  Virtually no sea turtles have been observed in scallop dredges since then.
  • Filling important information gaps by studying the behavioral and feeding habits of turtles through the use of aerial surveys, remotely operated vehicles, and cameras mounted on dredges and sleds in order to determine when and where turtle encounters are likely to occur.
  • Partnering with independent researchers to develop a new scallop dredge design that prevents turtles from going under the dredge.  Many fishermen are adopting this new design, which also demonstrably reduces fin-fish "by-catch," voluntarily.
  • FSF  is helping to initiate a first-of-its-kind in-water survey of turtle abundance.  This survey will help to inform researchers and fishery managers about the size and distribution of mid-Atlantic loggerhead turtles.

FSF is proud of the proactive role it has played for the past decade.  It seeks to sustain what has become the premier fishery management success story on the East Coast, if not the entire Nation, by ensuring that NMFS and federal managers have the best information necessary to accomplish the task.


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