The Council reviewed the 2018 Alaska weathervane scallop SAFE report that was prepared by the Scallop Plan Team. The Council set scallop ABC at 1.161 million pounds of shucked scallop meats, a level equivalent to 90% of the OFL (1.29 million pounds), which is consistent with the ABC control rule under the Scallop FMP. Scallop OFL and ABC are specified for all waters off Alaska, and guideline harvest levels (GHLs) are established by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for each of the State’s various scallop registration areas and districts.
Total scallop harvest off Alaska in the 2016/17 season was 233,003 lb (117 t) of shucked meats, which is 20% of specified ABC (1.161 million lb; 527 t). Area-specific harvest limits were met in a little over half of the fishing areas, specifically the Yakutat, Prince William Sound, Kodiak Shelikof, Kodiak Southwest, Unimak Bight, and Bering Sea Districts. Areas that were abandoned by the fleet before the GHL was harvested included District 16, Cook Inlet, Kodiak Northeast, and Dutch Harbor. The preliminary total catch estimate for the 2017/18 season is 238,710 lb (119 t) of shucked meats. This is 20.6% of the ABC specified for 2017/18 (1.161 million lb; 527 t). While overall declines have occurred in statewide scallop harvest over the past seven years, revenue has been stable. The stock status of Alaska weathervane scallops is not viewed as a conservation concern since scallops are distributed in many areas that have been closed to fishing to protect crab populations and in areas not defined as commercial beds.
An overview of the updated fishery economics appendix to the 2018 Scallop SAFE was presented to the Council. The update included statewide scallop harvest statistics from 1967-2017. It was noted that while price per pound is currently at a high point ($12.53), catch in pounds of meats is near a low in the time trend and has declined steadily since the early-1990s.
An analysis of the number of vessels that could break even from a cost perspective under various price and landing scenarios was also presented. Under current price-per-pound and harvest, the fishery could support slightly more than 3 boats. There are currently two vessels participating in the fishery, and it is uncertain whether a third will fish in 2018. It is likely that fleet consolidation has resulted in a more efficient fleet with lower operating costs, greater average crew wages, and improved returns. Low harvest levels, even with high prices, however, are likely preventing new entrants to the State waters fishery.
Finally, Federal scallop permit history and current activity was presented based on information publicly available from State and Federal sources. Ownership attribution shows that the greatest level of cumulative ownership shares is equivalent to 1.1 LLPs. LLP ownership under the FMP is limited to no more than two LLPs by one person.
The Council appreciated the expansion of economic information in the 2018 SAFE and looks forward to regular updates and additions to the break-even analysis, as well as permitting dynamics, and the potential for new entrants to the scallop fishery.
The motion can be viewed here. Staff contact is Jim Armstrong.