April 17, 2017 — Who knew that a silver dollar-sized scallop could provide such bang for a buck? As the most profitable item turned over in the most profitable port in the country, this milk-colored mollusk has almost been solely responsible for the re-birth of New Bedford’s working waterfront since the turn of the century.
While other New England ports have shrunk or been gentrified from a working waterfront to high rise condos and upscale restaurants, New Bedford has thrived.
In 2015, the port of New Bedford hauled in more than $321 million according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — $104 million more than Dutch Harbor, Alaska which had the second-most profitable port that year.
Three years earlier, in 2012, the municipality formerly known as the Whaling City set the national record for highest-valued catch at $411 million with scallops accounting for nearly 80 percent of that number. Alliteration aside, the Scallop City just doesn’t have the same ring to it, although a case could certainly be made for a name change.
Ed Anthes-Washburn, Port Director of the city’s Harbor Development Commission, said the port accounted for more than 36,000 jobs and held a value of $9.8 billion in economic value in 2015 — nearly double Boston’s $4.6 billion value in 2012 — according to the commissions state-funded study by Martin Associates in October.
“It’s really huge,” Anthes-Washburn said of the port’s impact on the city and the state. “We’re growing at a time where a lot of ports are shrinking.”
Fishing industry-lifers believe the scallop business will continue to boom thanks to the rotational management system that allows vessels to enter certain areas once they are deemed to be replenished by NOAA officials. Given a certain amount of trips each year, vessels can fish in those closed access areas until a designated date at which point two other areas open up. Creating a level of sustainability, the previously fished areas are then closed so that the scallops can be replenished.