Maine Seafood Guide – Scallops
Atlantic sea scallop Placopecten magellanicus
Wild. Research efforts to culture scallops are ongoing, but limited cultured product is currently available.
The Atlantic sea scallop ranges from Labrador to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. What we call a “scallop” is one part of the sea scallop animal, the adductor muscle. This 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.
December – April in Maine state waters, year-round in federal waters. View 2016-17 season information from Maine DMR.
In recent years, declining numbers of scallops in state waters prompted DMR to implement emergency and experimental closures to protect the resource. The season is restricted according to “zones,” with areas closed as they approach unsustainable harvesting levels. Refer to the Department of Marine Resources for the latest updates on Maine scallop season. Harvest size is limited to scallops 4” or larger.
Atlantic sea scallops in federal waters along the Northwestern Atlantic Coast are not overfished nor is overfishing occurring. Offshore scallop fishing areas (beyond three miles from shore) are opened and closed on a rotational basis, with a limit on total annual catch and limits on bycatch of yellowtail flounder. The fishery is also scheduled to protect sea turtles (more from Fishwatch.gov).
Inshore fishery (within three miles of shore) is managed by Department of Marine Resources. Offshore fishery governed by New England Fishery Management Council.
The majority of scallops are harvested by mechanical drag; in state waters some are harvested by hand by SCUBA divers (“dive caught” or “diver scallops”). Scallops are shucked on the boat shortly after being harvested. See the vessel and gear guide for more information.
Recreational SCUBA divers may take scallops with a non-commercial marine harvesting license from the Department of Marine Resources. It is unlawful to take scallops during nighttime hours (sunset to sunrise). A person may not use a drag, but must obtain a diver certification.
Minimum size is 4 inches along the longest diameter.
Scallops are a low-fat and low-calorie source of selenium, but contain lower amounts of omega-3 fatty acids compared to other seafood choices. Scallops are low in mercury. While in some countries people eat the entire scallop (“roe on”), US federal law currently limits scallop consumption to the meat (adductor muscle) only; scallops are shucked on the boat and other parts of the scallop (which can be affected by red tide) are thrown overboard.
Fresh scallops will keep refrigerated for a few days. They freeze well. Look for “dry” scallops that have not been soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate (sometimes indicated by a milky white liquid in the container). Scallops can be ivory, cream, or even slightly orange or gray in color, with a fresh, sweet smell. Scallops labeled as “dayboat,” “dive,” or “diver” indicate harvest in state waters, and therefore should only be available fresh during the state scallop season, typically in the winter.