(November 8, 2021) A huge bed of scallop seeds discovered outside Madaket last week gave a little optimism about the future of the island’s scallop fishing after a less than optimistic opening week.
“It’s an area in Madaket Harbor the equivalent of about 35 soccer fields and full of seeds,” said Tara Riley, the town’s shellfish biologist. “In my professional life here on Nantucket, I’ve never seen anything like how thick the seed is.”
Riley, who runs the shellfish farm at Brant Point, town, and her team take samples from the seedbed and try to define the parameters. She is also trying to establish a management plan to oversee the bed over the winter months to ensure the seeds grow into adult scallops for harvest the next season.
“In some places there are 50 scallops in a square meter, which is a large number of scallops,” she said. “Even if we were really conservative in the calculation and only counted 50 percent of what we have, that would be roughly 10,000 bushels of adult scallops that could be sitting in Madaket for next year.”
The mussel hatchery factory released 35 million larvae of scallops in July, roughly in the area where the seedbed was found.
“So we look at the spitting numbers and try to find a correlation between them,” said Riley. “But the size is right. All scallops are about 4-5 millimeters in size at the moment, very evenly. When we see a large population of the same size, it usually means that it came from a single spawning event. “
Large larvae have also been released in both First and Second Bends, but no large seedbeds have been found in Nantucket Harbor to date.
“We spent September and October searching the port and looking for seeds during the dive investigations,” said Riley. “Now we hope that a fisherman will simply uncover a place we haven’t looked yet and find a pile of seeds.”
Riley cited the reasons why there are so many seeds in Madaket Harbor and almost none in Nantucket Harbor, “the million dollar question.”
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