• by Sarah Teach •
Those three little words can mean the world if you say them to the right person: Nantucket bay scallops. Islanders know that the tender mollusk muscles taste distinctively sweet and are only found in one place in the entire world: Nantucket. More specifically, Nantucket’s two harbors that welcome visitors in the summertime, bid a blustery good morning to commercial fishermen during the winter months, and lap at sandy shores from Madaket to Wauwinet all year long. No one doubts that the island’s harbors are beautiful, but not everyone is aware of their importance to the health of Nantucket’s economy. Suppose the harbors were to become uninhabitable to our little mollusk friends or their eelgrass homes. Every year, that would mean two million fewer dollars flowing through islanders’ pockets. Due to water contamination from excessive boat traffic and moorings, septic leakage and lawn fertilizer runoff, and a handful of other human activities, the disappearance of the Nantucket bay scallop is a very real threat.
In 2003, a group of concerned islanders established the Nantucket Shellfish Association (NSA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit aiming to save Nantucket’s declining shellfishing industry. In 2012, the NSA developed a Shellfish Management Plan, which outlines specific objectives and means to meet them. Research is a central component to restoring and maintaining a scallop population that was once much more robust, so the NSA has allocated funding to shellfish biologists who work to boost scallop populations through a propagation lab as well as predator and habitat management. The scalloping fleet itself is a huge resource in aiding research efforts such as accurate and up-to-date data gathering. Of course, adaptive and achievable catch regulations are also in order and are being implemented in the most cost-effective manner possible. And finally, the NSA aspires to brand the Nantucket bay scallop. This not only serves to educate the public about the scallop industry, but also preserves the mollusk’s commercial integrity from counterfeits being grown in China and sold as the real thing. The Shellfish Management Plan is in place to prevent the devastation of Nantucket’s bay scallop fishery, but it cannot fully thrive without the help of our community.
Respond to this “Save Our Scallops” signal by attending one of the most fun and important fundraising events of the fall season. The annual Scallopers Ball will take place on Friday, September 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the Nantucket Yacht Club. Dance to live music by Eclif and the Swingdogs, bid at the silent auction, and try your luck at winning door prizes. Dinner will be bountiful and include a raw bar, freshly made seafood chowder, and of course, those three little words: Nantucket bay scallops. The event sold out quickly last year; so don’t wait to get your tickets! Tickets are $50 and are sold at Mitchell’s Book Corner, Bookworks, Island Cashmere, and Brant Point Marine.