by Catherine Schmitt
After a lovely meal of diver-harvested Maine sea scallops at The Salt Exchange, I am making a note to myself to eat more scallops before the season in Maine waters ends March 27.
Maine fishermen deliver fresh sea scallops to local restaurants the same day they are caught. The eye, or adductor muscle, is the edible part of the scallop. The adductor muscle is more developed in the scallop than in oysters and clams because scallops are active swimmers, and use the muscle to open and close their shell, a motion which propels them through the water. Unlike clams, oysters, and other bivalves, scallops cannot hold their shells closed for extended periods and therefore can not survive long out of the water. Consequently, they’re shucked on the boat shortly after being harvested.
Scallops are also harvested in Maine waters by hand (SCUBA diving, hence the descriptor “diver-caught” or just “diver”) and by dredge. Dredge and trawl are the primary methods of scallop harvesting in federal waters greater than three miles from shore, which occurs year-round.
The fishing industry cites pros and cons to harvesting scallops by hand, although there is a lack of scientific research on the impacts of dredging versus diving. Diving has less impact on the ocean floor community, but many feel that the large, high quality scallops harvested by divers are those that contribute a lot to spawning output and keep the population healthy. With experimental closures in many areas of the coast, everyone is anxiously waiting to see how the population does this year.