scallops in buckets

April 7, 2016
Contact: Shelley Dawicki

2016-2017 Sea Scallop Research Set-Aside Recommended Awards Announced

NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center and the New England Fishery Management Council are pleased to announce that 15 research projects have been selected for support from the 2016 Sea Scallop Research Set-Aside (RSA) program. The projects address the council’s research priorities for the nation’s highest-valued single species commercial fishery.

Twenty-five researchers from nine different organizations will be awarded 2016-2017 research grants valued at $15.6 million. These projects are funded by proceeds from selling a portion of the annual sea scallop quota “set aside” for this purpose. Award recipients are located in Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Virginia and include universities, non-profit research and education organizations, and commercial fishing vessels and businesses.

Research set-aside programs are unique to federal fisheries in the northeast region. Under RSA programs, no federal funds are provided to support the research. Selected projects receive allocations “set-aside” within established quotas for this purpose under the particular fishery management plan. Successful applicants partner with the fishing industry to harvest their set aside award to generate funds for the research. There are active research set-aside programs for Atlantic sea scallops, Atlantic herring, and monkfish.

The New England Fishery Management Council established the sea scallop RSA program to address research that will support management of the scallop resource. The Council sets the research priorities and researchers compete for funding through a federal grant competition managed by NOAA Fisheries. All of the funds derived from quota sales are used to support research and compensate industry partners. NOAA Fisheries does not retain or use any of these funds.

This year, more than 30 proposals were received for consideration. Six of these are two-year projects. Proposals were evaluated and ranked for technical merit and responsiveness to Council research priorities.

Ten projects will address the Council’s highest research priorities, including intensive and broad-scale resource surveys, bycatch reduction, scallop meat quality, and scallop area management. Five projects focus on other Council priorities, such as sea scallop biology and productivity, habitat impact research, and reducing the risk of sea turtle interactions with the scallop fishery.

Proposals underwent a two-stage review – one for technical merit and one for responsiveness to management priorities.

Proposals for sea scallop surveys were evaluated and ranked by a technical panel that looked at merit as well as how the work met recommendations from a recent peer review of all sea scallop survey methods used in the region. All other proposals were each evaluated for technical merit by three subject matter experts. Each technical reviewer submitted scores and comments on each proposal. A management panel made recommendations on priority projects, based on current management priorities.
The technical review scores, in conjunction with recommendations from the management panelists, are the basis for RSA survey funding decisions.

Sea Scallop Resource Surveys Recommended for Funding

These surveys, combined with the annual NOAA Fisheries sea scallop survey, will provide a comprehensive picture of the scallop resource by the end of this summer. The data collected are expected to support the Council’s area management decisions for 2017 and beyond.

Arnie’s Fisheries Inc. will conduct an optical survey of the Elephant Trunk Access Area using the HabCam V3 instrument system, looking at scallop numbers, sizes, and density in order to generate harvestable biomass estimates.

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) will conduct a fine-scale dredge survey of the Mid-Atlantic sea scallop resource from the Virginia/North Carolina border to Block Island, Rhode Island. VIMS will also conduct high-resolution abundance and distribution surveys in and around the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area, and in Georges Bank Closed Area II and the surrounding area to the south, where secondary objectives include finfish bycatch species composition and catch rates; scallop product quality and disease research; and commercial and survey scallop dredge performance.

The Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution, as part of their habitat research on the northern part of Georges Bank, will conduct a high resolution HabCam survey to support near-term scallop area management decisions of this area that is undergoing considerable management changes. Lund’s Fisheries are co-principal investigators.

As requested by the New England Fishery Management Council, the survey technical review panel not only considered technical merit, but also the results of a recent peer review when evaluating proposals for sea scallop surveys. That review, conducted in 2015 by the Center for Independent Experts, examined all of the primary survey methods for assessing sea scallop abundance in the region, several of which are supported through the scallop RSA program. The technical panel ensured that proposals were responsive to the peer review findings.

Bycatch Mitigation Projects

For the fifth year, UMASS Dartmouth’s School of Marine Science and Technology will use their award to support a yellowtail flounder bycatch avoidance system.To address low allocations of yellowtail flounder in the scallop fishery, these researchers will work with the limited-access and general category scallop fleets to deploy the bycatch avoidance system in fishing grounds on Georges Bank and in southern New England.

Reducing bycatch through scallop dredge gear modifications is the focus of two projects proposed by the Coonamessett Farm Foundation, Inc. The Foundation plans to design and test gear designed to reduce flatfish bycatch through modification to the dredge bag, and the use of a modified flounder sweep attached to the dredge bail, filming interactions to monitor the effectiveness of the gear modifications.

The Coonamessett Farm Foundation will also continue its seasonal bycatch survey on Georges Bank, collecting information on yellowtail flounder bycatch rates and other bycatch species relative to scallop meat yield. Data will also be used to evaluate sea scallop health and meat quality, provide maturity data for several flounder species, estimate the prevalence of a potentially significant parasite in yellowtail flounder, and examine lobsters for shell disease while also collecting biological data.

For the eighth Coonamessett Farm will tag up to 30 loggerhead sea turtles with water activated tags. They will also observe sea turtle behavior using a remotely operated vehicle, take biological samples, and collect length and weight measurements. This work provides information on sea turtle distribution and behavior in the Mid-Atlantic and southern New England, where there is overlap between sea scallop fishing activity and turtle distribution. Co-principle investigators include Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association, and Roger Williams University.

Sea Scallop Biology, Meat Quality, and Productivity Projects

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science will study sea scallop age structure and growth rates over time. Under a separate grant, VIMS will develop a framework for mark-recapture studies to estimate natural mortality, growth and movement of scallops and the effects of scallop density on those factors.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth campus investigating scallop meat quality will focus on how the infection that causes “gray meat” in sea scallops is transmitted.

Researchers at Virginia Institute of Marine Science, with colleagues at Rutgers University, will study how a nematode parasite affects scallop meat quality and provide insight into how industry and management can assess and predict impacts to the scallop stock and meat quality.

Coonamessett Farm Foundation will demonstrate the feasibility of a seeding program to enhance and stabilize scallop recruitment while documenting the factors that affect seed survival.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will investigate the impact of scallop fishing in habitat management areas using the REMUS autonomous underwater vehicle.

For more information about these recommended awards and the Scallop RSA Program, please contact Ryan Silva (, 978-281-9326), or Cheryl Corbett (, 508-495-2070).

To learn more about work funded through the Sea Scallop RSA program, or through the NEFSC Northeast Cooperative Research Program, use our searchable project list.

2016-2017 Sea Scallop Research Set-Aside Projects 1

Project Organization Principal Investigators * Set-Aside Award
based on $12 per pound
C=compensation fishing
T=total budget
Optimizing the Georges Bank Scallop Fishery by Maximizing Meat Yield and Minimizing Bycatch Coonamessett Farm Foundation, Inc. Carl Huntsberger, Jasper Leavitt, Rachel Simpson, Liese Siemann (CFF)
David Rudders (VIMS)
Heidi Henninger (AOLA)
Roxanna Smolowitz (RWU)

166,191 lb of scallops

Development of Ecosystem Friendly Scallop Dredge Bags: Tools for Long-Term Sustainability Coonamessett Farm Foundation, Inc. Farrell Davis
Christopher Parkins
Melissa Campbell

146,350 lb of scallops

A Modified Flounder Sweep for Flatfish Bycatch Reduction in the LAGC Scallop Fishery Coonamessett Farm Foundation, Inc. Christopher Parkins
Farrell Davis

30,793 lb of scallops

Understanding Impacts of the Sea Scallop Fishery on Loggerhead Sea Turtles Through Satellite Tagging Coonamessett Farm Foundation, Inc. Samir Patel
Shea Miller

74,338 lb of scallops

Drivers of Dispersal and Retention in Recently Seeded Sea Scallops Coonamessett Farm Foundation, Inc. Shea Miller
Liese Siemann
Jasper Leavitt

90,011 lb of scallops

Optical Survey of the Scallop Resource in the Elephant Trunk Scallop Access Area – Year 2 Arnie’s Fisheries, Inc. Richard Taylor R-$146,635

48,878 lb of scallops

Transmission of Apicomplexan Infection and Development of Gray Meat in Atlantic Sea Scallops Placopecten magellanicus (2 Years) University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth Jennifer Koop
Susan Inglis

53,315 lb of scallops

Scallop Fishery Bycatch Avoidance System 2016 University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth Steve Cadrin R-$87,500

26,041 lb of scallops

A Cooperative High Precision Dredge Survey to Assess the Mid-Atlantic Sea Scallop Resource Area (2 Years) Virginia Institute of Marine Science David Rudders
Sally Roman
Robert Fisher

164,946 lb of scallops

An Assessment of Sea Scallop Abundance and Distribution in the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area and Surrounds (2 Years) Virginia Institute of Marine Science David Rudders
Sally Roman

74,329 lb of scallops

An Investigation into the Scallop Parasite Outbreak on the Mid-Atlantic Shelf: Transmission Pathways, Spatio-Temporal Variation of Infection, and Consequences to Marketability (2 Years) Virginia Institute of Marine Science David Rudders (VIMS)
David Bushek
Daphne Munroe, Robert Fisher, Eleanor Bochenek (Rutgers University)

78,785 lb of scallops

An Assessment of Sea Scallop Abundance and Distribution in Georges Bank Closed Area II and Surrounds Virginia Institute of Marine Science David Rudders R-$89,643

37,351 lb of scallops

Scallop Mark-Recapture to Estimate Density Dependent Natural Mortality and Growth Virginia Institute of Marine Science David Rudders
John Hoenig
T-$ 594,284

49,524 lbs. of scallops

Age Structure and Growth Rate in the Sea Scallop Placopecten magellanicus (2 Years) Virginia Institute of Marine Science Roger Mann
David Rudders

51,139 lb of scallops

Impact of Disturbance on Habitat Recovery in Habitat Management Areas on George's Bank (2 Years) Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Scott Gallager
Mike Purcell (WHOI)
Wayne Reichle
Jeff Kaelin (Lund’s Fisheries)

222,162 lb of scallops

Total $ 15,589,853
1 CFF – Coonamessett Farm Foundation
VIMS – Virginia Institute of Marine Science
AOLA – Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association
RWU – Roger Williams University
WHOI – Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
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(File Modified Dec. 13 2017)