Vineyard consumers are enjoying the lowest retail prices on bay scallops in at least ten years thanks to a renewed abundance of the tasty bivalve on Nantucket.
The Nantucket resurgence has been pushing down wholesale as well as retail prices on both Islands.
At Menemsha Seafood in Chilmark, owner Stanley Larsen said the retail price for bay scallops is around $16. His cousin, Louis Larsen of the Net Result, a fish market in Vineyard Haven, said the retail price is about the same at his store.
The retail price at Nantucket Seafoods is also $16 a pound.
“That is low here for this time of year,” said Ted Jennison of Nantucket Seafoods. “But, I’ll tell you there is one place over here selling for $12 a pound.”
Last week, the retail price on the Vineyard reached as high as $21.50, but that was before seafood marketers became fully aware of how many bay scallops were coming to the dock.
Nantucket and the Vineyard are the largest producers of bay scallops in Massachusetts. Seafood marketers treat the harvest from the two Islands as a single market.
“This is a great time for the consumer,” Louis Larsen said. “It is the least expensive price for this time of years that I’ve seen in at least ten years.”
But low retail prices translate into a problem for scallopers on both Islands.
On Nantucket, the fishermen are getting $9 per pound. On the Vineyard the fishermen are getting from $9 to $13 per pound for shucked bay scallops.
The biggest consumers of bay scallops are off-Islanders. Most of the bay scallops harvested on the two Islands are consumed on the mainland.
Observers blame the low wholesale price on the price being paid by off-Island shippers. If the product doesn’t move fast enough on the mainland, the price drops.
The Larsens and other seafood handlers would like to see the Vineyard product going for a higher price just as much as the fishermen.
Louis Larsen said: “I have to compete with Nantucket. Nantucket is dictating the price by virtue of their volume. We dictated the price last year because we had the volume.”
Nantucket used to lead the state for the most landings. In the last two years, the Vineyard was at the top.
Dave Fronzuto, marine superintendent for Nantucket, said landings this year on that Island could match or come close to the 32,000 bushels that were landed in 2004. On Nov. 1, the first day of the fishery, just under 60 boats went out to harvest the shellfish. They are all still going strong.
Last year, Nantucket landed 3,800 bushels.
A group of at least 40 Nantucket fishermen and a few shippers met at the Faregrounds Restaurant last Sunday to talk about ways to bring up the price. One of the options put on the table was to ask the selectmen to stop commercial harvesting of scallops on Fridays.
Mr. Fronzuto said the idea of closing the fishery for one day a week previously has been discussed, but never with the support it has received thus far.
Fridays are hard days for shippers. Bay scallops shipped from Nantucket on Fridays don’t make it to the distant markets until Monday. By closing the fishery for one day, Mr. Fronzuto said the price might rise.
Yesterday evening, the matter was scheduled for discussion by the town’s harbor shellfish advisory board and the selectmen. “This is the first time the selectmen will deal with it, as it has never come this far,” Mr. Fronzuto said.
The marine superintendent is heartened by the revival of the Nantucket harvest.
“I think it is fantastic that the bay scallops are out there,” Mr. Fronzuto said. “This is great. The price problem will work itself out.”
Mr. Jennison of Nantucket Seafoods touted his Island’s bay scallops, saying they are larger and taste sweeter than the Vineyard’s.
He also said fishermen can realize a lucrative payday on the scallops despite the lower wholesale price.
“They are making $400 a day if they open them themselves,” he said of Nantucket’s fishermen. “And it is good money and they are done in just five to six hours.”