THIS FISH

HARVESTING PROFILE

Sea Scallop by Digby Dredge

Northumberland Strait — Atlantic Canada

Fish harvesters drag a tow bar attached to metal chain-link baskets along the seafloor to catch sea scallops. This dredge stirs up the scallops from the seabed, which then are scooped into the baskets. 

Digby Dredge
HARVESTING METHOD

Digby Dredge

Known as the “Digby drag,” this rock dredge consists of a dozen metal chain-link baskets with a cumulative width of 16 feet (5 metres). It is attached to a tow bar by a cable that allows the dredge to be lowered and towed along the rocky bottom of scallop beds. The dredge is towed at low speed for about 20 minutes and then hauled up. The contents of the baskets are dumped onto a sorting deck fitted to the back of the vessel. Crew sort through the large rocks and pebbles to find scallops. The shellfish are shucked aboard the vessel and stored on ice in burlaps sacks. Unwanted species are returned to the ocean.

Digby Dredge

Scallop vessels average about 45 feet (13.7 metres) long. In Scallop Fishing Area 22 in the Northumberland Strait, there are 191 licenses. Some 130 of these are fishermen from NewBrunswick and 61 from Prince Edward Island. Only about 60 to 70 licences are actively fished each year.

Conservation Measures

Scallop dredges cause habitat damage when dragged along the seabed and unwanted species (bycatch) are also incidentally caught.

The sea scallop fishery is managed by effort control, which involves limits to size of mesh, size of scallops and fishing days. A number of measures address conservation in the fishery. These include:

  • fishing is limited to only five weeks in the spring (May-June) and five weeks in the fall (November-December) between 6 am and 6 pm. 
  • Fishing is prohibited on Sundays.
  • No more than 44 scallops together can weigh 1.1 lbs (500 g) of meat which prevents the harvesting of small, immature scallops.
  • The minimum ring size on dredge baskets is set at 3.25 inches (82.6 mm) and 3 inches (76.2 inches) for the first row of rings to prevent the harvesting of immature scallops.
  • Using runners or wheels, the tow bar must be raised two inches off the seafloor to minimize habitat damage.  
  • Fishing vessels must stay outside a coastal buffer zone that protects lobster habitat.
  • Fishermen are required to keep a daily logbook of estimated catch.
Quality and Handling

Scallops are all hand shucked as they are caught and the abductor muscle (scallop meat) is rinsed in salt water and transferred to a clean burlap sack that allows the meat to breath. They are then placed on ice to await being sold to the buyer at the end of the day or taken home by the fishermen who may then freeze them in one-pound bags to be sold locally or to restaurants.  

Harvesting Area

Scallop Fishing Area 22 consists of the western end of Northumberland Strait between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, and a small part of Nova Scotia. The strait’s shallow depth lends itself to the warmest ocean water temperatures (20 degrees Celsius or 70 Fahrenheit) in Canada during the summer. The waters are warm enough to create onshore breezes that have a warming effect on land. The region is famous for its summery microclimate. The fishery takes place in the late summer and early autumn months.

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