« November 2006 Table of Contents
Larger meats bolstered the market, but a new area
opening may net bigger landings in all sizes for 2007
By Marianne Deward
November 01, 2006
The buzzword for this year's sea-scallop supply seems to be
"big," but it's the size - not the quantity - of the scallops
that's got buyers and sellers rethinking supply.
Some industry observers attribute the abundance of large
scallops to this year's reopening of areas such as Closed Area
II and Nantucket Lightship under the Atlantic sea-scallop
fishery management plan.
The closures gave the bivalves time to grow, resulting in a
bumper crop of U10 to U15 sea scallops, rather than the smaller
20-30 and 30-40-count that were more plentiful in years
Others say the larger sizes are due to redesigned gear that
catches more mature scallops and crew restrictions that favor
obtaining weights faster to cut days at sea. Whatever the
reason, larger scallops have been abundant and given buyers
somewhat of a reprieve from last year's record prices.
Sea scallops are sourced from around the world, including
China, Canada, Argentina, Chile, Iceland, Japan, Vietnam,
Russia and the Philippines. Domestic sea scallops are found in
waters of the western North Atlantic shelf from Newfoundland to
North Carolina, with a large concentration on Georges Bank and
the Mid-Atlantic shelf.
The species has been subject to a fishery management plan
since 1982. This year, as part of the plan's Amendment 10,
Framework Adjustment 18 for 2006-07 was implemented in July.
This affects the more than 300 full-time, part-time and
occasional vessel-permit holders in the U.S. Atlantic
"Every two years we analyze what the biomass will be,
estimate what will be caught per day and decide what should
remain closed or open for the next two fishing years," says
Deirdre Boelke of the New England Fishery Management
"This gives us a good idea of expected landings and revisits
any concerns. We're actually now working on Amendment 11."
An August 2006 federal survey, which took into account
scallop cycles and their dependence on ocean currents,
indicates the biomass in Georges Bank stock is trending
downward, says Boelke, but the Mid-Atlantic, especially the
southern area, is rebounding.
"Despite the one downward trend, the total sea-scallop
biomass is in very good condition," says Boelke. "Overall,
this year's sea-scallop landings are expected to be up slightly
from last year's 56 million pounds."
The 2007 harvest will likely to go up a bit more with the
opening of the Elephant Trunk Access Area (ETAA) in the
Mid-Atlantic, which researchers say contains a large amount of
"We need to be very cautious, however, and watch this area
closely," says Boelke.
Amendment 10 of the management plan closed the Elephant
Trunk to scallop fishing in July 2004, anticipating that the
scallops would reach optimum size for harvest in 2007. Though
the season historically begins on March 1, the area will be
open Jan. 1, 2007, through 2012, with a two-month seasonal
closure each fall to protect endangered sea turtles.
The early opening is intended to spread the fishing effort
in the ETAA over a longer time.
Approximately 1,360 trips are scheduled for next year in
this area, unless the number is reduced due to a lower
exploitable biomass. For 2007, days at sea have been slightly
reduced, from 77 to 75 days.
"This year may have produced larger scallops, but the
opening and closing of areas remains a delicate balance. We
don't want the scallops to get too old and grow slower, but we
can't harvest them too soon, either," says Boelke.
"We try our best to determine the best possible times for
scallop harvesting to optimize the yield as well as plan for
Supply and demand
Buyers and sellers agree that 2006 was a much better year
for sea scallops in regards to both supply and a continued high
demand. However, with the larger-sized scallops, resource
adjustments had to be made.
Sales of U10s were healthy, with prices falling from 2005
highs of $9 a pound, but Bob Fitzsimmons, president of Trisome
Foods in New Hampshire, felt the shortfall of the 20-30 and
30-40 sizes many restaurants use for appetizers, stuffings and
salads. He imported scallops from China to fill that
"We've been importing the smaller sizes at a very good
value," says Fitzsimmons. "Even with new openings, I don't
expect that to change in the near future."
Terry Malloy, director of sales for Chesapeake Bay Packing,
a Virginia processor that owns nine scallop boats, relied on
involvement to sell the larger sea
"Foodservice, which typically buys larger sea scallops,
alone couldn't have utilized all the large sea scallops we got
this year," says Malloy. "Every year is different when it comes
to sea scallops, though.
"With the Elephant Trunk opening in 2007 we may see more of
the smaller sizes. It's supposed to be the largest biomass of
sea scallops that scientists have ever seen.
"And, following China's increased seeding efforts last year,
we may see one of the largest landings coming out of
Malloy believes the management plan is one of the most
successful in the commercial fishing industry.
"Resources are continuing to rebound," he says. "I don't see
anything in the near future that would prohibit this from
moving forward. Hopefully we'll never see the resource
problems of the early '90s again."
For Todd Daniels of Wanchese Fish Co. in Virginia, which has
15 company-owned vessels, sea-scallop management is here to
stay. "We're going to have management, so we need to work with
it," says Daniels.
"You can't please everyone, but it can continue to be
successful if the fishing industry cooperates and speaks with
Quite a price ride
On the heels of 2005's soaring sea- scallop prices, prices
remained high early in 2006. Mid-year, prices began to
stabilize, with some periodic spikes. "Though prices have gone
down, they still are a bit unsettled," says Fitzsimmons.
"They fluctuate. In the short term,  may be a tough
year, but in the long run, prices should level off."
In general, prices for fresh domestic sea scallops went down
during the summer months and stayed in the $4.50 to $4.75
"It's been a roller coaster, though, with prices spiking to
$6 or $7 a pound and then going back down to $4.75, back up to
$6.50 and now leveling at around $5.50 for the larger U10-12s,"
says Malloy of Chesapeake Bay Packing.
"With the September closing of Closed Area II, and early
closing of Nantucket, there may be more spikes before the year
Frozen-sea-scallop prices hit record highs in 2005, which,
according to Malloy, can lead to losses. He cites importers who
brought them in at $7 a pound, sold them at $8, brought more in
at $8 and then had a hard time selling them at $9.
Malloy predicts that 2007's pricing will be similar to that
Prices for imported Chinese sea scallops are $5 to $5.25 a
pound for 20-30s and 30-40s. The U10 Japanese Hokkaido sea
scallops range from $6 to $7 a pound.
A sure thing
Despite the changing prices, sea scallops remain a popular
item in retail stores and on menus, and buyers are becoming
more knowledgable about the difference between dry (untreated)
and soaked scallops.
Stew Leonard's, a large specialty retailer with stores in
Connecticut and New York, primarily sells dry U10 scallops.
"Sea-scallop sales are fantastic at all three of our
stores," says Mike Reseska, seafood director for Stew
Leonard's. "We typically have two to three promotions each year
during the summer months because most of our customers like to
Shawn Wellersdick, chef/owner of Port Land Grille, an
upscale restaurant in Wilmington, N.C., uses dry sea scallops
for his featured menu items. "They used to be a luxury item,
but not any more," he says. "Quality and supply are good, and
people expect them on our menu. They fly out the door."
Chef Richard Rosendale, restaurant owner and team captain of
the American Culinary Federation's Culinary Team USA, will be
featuring sea scallops in the Team USA Olympics in Luxembourg
from Nov. 18 to 22. The scallops are infused with fresh
truffles, gently cooked in butter and then seared. "Sea
scallops are always a sure thing on any menu," says
"I use only dry packed, but many of the luxury resorts I
worked at use dry and treated; it depends on what works well
for the facility."
Monty Berg, supervisory consumer safety officer with the
National Marine Fishery Service Seafood Inspection Program,
says the debate over dry and treated sea scallops has raged for
more than 30 years. "Treating scallops with tripolyphosphate to
gain weight is almost standard now," says Berg.
"It's safe, but when they shrink down to nothing while
cooking and are translucent, then the scallops are over
treated. Buyers still need to
Eric Bloom, president of the family-owned Eastern Fish Co.
of Teaneck, N.J., sees customer backlash to treated
"I think the trend is swinging back toward using more dry,"
says Bloom. "Savvy consumers want value, not water gain."
The debate over treating scallops will continue, but sea
scallops will remain a consumer favorite.