Cold, unsettled weather resulted in a less-than-stellar scallop fishing season in the Northumberland Strait this year. Cape Tormentine scallop fisher Jim Murray says poor weather conditions made it hard for fishers in Scallop Area 22 to get in more than just a few days fishing each week of the annual five-week season, which ran from May 1 to June 3 this year.
Only three scallop boats fished at the Cape Tormentine wharf this year, with just five at the Botsford wharf in nearby Murray Corner.
“It was bumpy enough on some days; the first week we only dragged three days, the second week four… it was rainy, cold and windy. When you’re dragging scallops, you can’t drag in much more than about 20 knot winds; you’re pushing the max. You get two or three thousand pounds of steel swinging around the back of the boat… it’s quite hard when it’s blowing, and you don’t bring in as much,” Murray says.
Scallop catches weren’t too bad in the early days of the season, but certainly a far cry from other, better years, Murray continues.
“There were some who were bringing in 150 pounds the first day, but that’s a far cry from some years; usually it’s 250 to 300 pounds. That’s pretty near half of what it usually is. Then in the second week it went down to less than 100 pounds. At the end of it, some of the bigger outfits, they were still scratching up 70 or 80 pounds. But it was the price that kept it going. If you pick up 80 pounds you’re looking at $1,200; it pays you and pays for the hired men,” Murray says.
Scallop prices were higher again this year, at $15 per pound, up three dollars from the $12 fishers got for their catches in 2017.
Meat quality was also good, he notes, and fishers were glad to see lots of spat and smaller scallops in their drags.
“There are lots of small ones, and that’s good. There was a time when things didn’t look so good. The year after they built the bridge (Confederation Bridge to P.E.I., 1994 to 1997), in two days I got about 80 pounds and the meat was poor. It seems about every 20 years they do something in the (Northumberland) Strait and everything gets messed up. In 1977, they put the first cable to P.E.I., in 1997 it was the bridge and in 2017 it’s the new power cable, and that’s caused problems, what with all the silt last year. And they put it right across the end of the best scallop beds in the Strait, so who knows what’ll happen with that,” Murray says.
Still, Murray remains optimistic the scallop stocks will continue to increase.
“I’ve been fishing lobster for years, scallops since 1992 and I’ve never missed a year. We weathered the bridge years, and they were tough ones, but I guess scallops are a hardy species, because we’re seeing the small ones again. Who know what the future will bring?”