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Delaware survey forecasts banner year for Atlantic sea scallops

A new federal survey has found a bumper crop of sea scallops off Delaware's coast.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration saw as many as 10 billion scallops in its annual look at the mid-Atlantic.


Dvora Hart is a NOAA research analyst who sailed out of Lewes on the University of Delaware research vessel Hugh Sharp to do the survey.


"Conventional wisdom is they don't like to be in densities of more than about 8 per square meter, … and 8 per square meter is unusually high density, and we were seeing this year, densities in some areas over a hundred per square meter."


She says it's probably due to a recent closure of a fishing area in northern New Jersey, which gave more scallops more time to spawn closer together.


And she says the most scallops their survey has found since 2003. That year, Hart says the animals were so crowded that "only about half to a third survived to a commercial size."


"But even if that's the case [in the next couple of years], that's an absolutely huge number of scallops," she says. "It'll be an extremely valuable fishery."


In 2003, it led to a half-billion dollar year for what's already the nation's most valuable fishery.


And Hart says scallop populations are up all over the East Coast. The juveniles found in their surveys will be big enough to harvest in the next two to three years at ports like Cape May, N.J. and New Bedford, Mass., which is perennially the country's top-earning port thanks to scallops.

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