Scallops Nantucket Bay

Product #: 66018

Scientific Name: Placopecten magellanicus

Country of Origin: United States

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Catch Info:

  • Method:
    Miscellaneous Gears
  • Gear:
View details of SeafoodWatch Catch Methods


Sea scallops are farmed in small quantities in New England and Newfoundland, but the vast majority are wild caught. They cannot survive out of water like oysters, clams and mussels, so scallops are always shucked at sea and kept on ice or frozen. We eat the adductor muscle, a very strong muscle that rapidly opens and closes the shell, propelling the scallop through the water. Wet scallops have been soaked in a preservative to maintain texture and taste; dry scallops have no preservatives added and must be sold very fresh. Scallops have a sweet and rich taste. The meat is creamy white or pinkish when raw, and cooks to an opaque white.

Atlantic sea scallops are native to western Atlantic Ocean from Canada to North Carolina.

The sea scallop population off the coast of the northeast U.S. is healthy and well managed, and fishing pressure is appropriate. The population is consistently monitored and stock assessments and projections are conducted regularly. Harvest must remain at or below an Annual Catch Limit and effort is controlled through days at sea allocations. The scallop fishery is subject to rotational management where some scallop beds are left fallow for a period of time to allow for replenishment and growth to optimal size. Vessels harvesting more than 40 lbs of scallop meat must carry a satellite tracking system to aid in enforcement of regulations. Dredging and trawling do have significant impacts on the surrounding ecosystem through damage to the sea bottom and bycatch. The federal government has minimized these impacts to the extent practicable by implementing closed areas to protect the sea bottom and gear modifications to allow for the escapement of small scallops, finfish and sea turtles.

The cool waters of Nantucket Sound are perfect for bay scallops, which use the native inshore eelgrass as both a nursery and cover from predators and hard surf. While local Nantucketers can enjoy the first harvest in October, the commercial harvest season opens November 1st and runs through March. Nantucket bay scallops are harvested by fishermen in small boats from the shores and bays of Nantucket Island using hand dredges. Scallops are landed live, taken ashore, and immediately shucked. Often by the fishermen themselves in dockside shucking shanties. Fishing for bays can be restrictive: besides heavy winds and ice that can keep the boats tied, fishermen are actually forbidden from harvest if the air temperature is lower than 28°F before 10 AM. Because the water is warmer than the air, scallops will die immediately once dredged, killing both undersized juveniles who would be cast back along with the marketable catch. Although the season is open until March, it is not uncommon for fishermen to stop fishing altogether once the harbor freezes up entirely, sometimes as early as the first week of January.

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