2017 scallop season starts strong with anticipated higher harvest

Scallop execs tell IntraFish fishermen are landing smaller scallops so far.

Boats hit the water as soon as the new US scallop season started March 1, and harvests are strong, said Ross Paasche, who heads up procurement and sales for New Bedford, Massachusetts-based Seatrade.

"Size was very good, mostly 10/20s," he told IntraFish. "There's strong signs of U10's and U12's up near the New England border.

Scallop firm Wanchese, bought by Cooke Aquaculture in 2015, also said supply is anticipated to be higher this year, particularly with smaller-sized scallops.

"So far, many vessels have completed their single trip in Nantucket area yielding the expected larger sizes of U10’s in this area," said Cooke Aquaculture spokesperson Nell Halse and Ross Butler, CEO of Cooke Seafood USA Inc. and the Wanchese Fish Company. "These are likely to be the only significant provider of large scallops as the science and industry experience is that 2017 will have a smaller size profile this year.

"The increase of volume is anticipated to be 10 to 15 percent higher than last year and prices for large scallops will remain high given the even tighter supply, while the smaller sizes will likely see some softening as higher volumes will be offered," said Halse.

"This may provide customer opportunities to offer better values on smaller-sized scallops."

However, they told IntraFish the softened market impact could be offset by continuing lower volumes of imports from Hokkaido and Peru.

"This winter we saw some unusually small scallops, good quantities of 34/40s and some 20/30s; the sector needed to find customers for that type of scallop," said Paasche. "As spring approached for this season, they grew in size so we'll see more 10/20s and 20/30s."

Paasche added the target this year for the scallop fishery is 46-47 million pounds and possibly up to 48 to 49 million pounds.

The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) previously projected the landings for the East Coast Atlantic scallop fishery for the 2017-2018 season at 46.5 million pounds, an 18 percent increase over last season's harvest.

This does not factor in the 13th month, which applies to only this year because the fishery changed its start date from March 1 to April 1 for the 2018-2019 fishing year.

Compared to last season, Paasche said the fleet size is still the same. Last season saw a good harvest, yet prices stayed strong.

"Demand kept pace with supply," he said. "This season also seems to be starting off faster with boats hitting the water more quickly and earlier than last year."

Halse and Butler said last year's harvest was as expected and saw similar market conditions as Paasche.

"Demand was balanced with the supply and prices were sustained at relatively high levels especially for the larger scallops which were available in very limited supply," they told IntraFish.

"Normal inventory carried over from 2016 by the industry seems to be moving or already moved through the market in Q1 and the fishery resumed in Q1 2017 with normal amount of carry forward sea days from last year and then quickly followed in Q2 with the 2017 season."

Halse and Butler added the soon-to-be-enacted new Free trade agreement between Canada and the EU ( CETA) "will eliminate Canadian duties on scallops going to the EU. This may have the impact of lowering scallop imports to the USA market in favor of higher economic returns from EU sales. If this happens it could firm up the market pricing for smaller sizes in the USA."

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