The bay scallop, Argopecten irradians, Massachusetts through North Carolina: its biology and the history of its habitats and fisheries.
Abstract: This article covers the biology and the history of the bay scallop habitats and fishery from Massachusetts to North Carolina. The scallop species that ranges from Massachusetts to New York is Argopecten irradians irradians. In New Jersey, this species grades into A. i. concentricus, which then ranges from Maryland though North Carolina. Bay scallops inhabit broad, shallow bays usually containing eelgrass meadows, an important component in their habitat. Eelgrass appears to be a factor in the production of scallop larvae and also the protection of juveniles, especially, from predation. Bay scallops spawn during the warm months and live for 18-30 months. Only two generations of scallops are present at any time. The abundances of each vary widely among bays and years.

Scallops were harvested along with other mollusks on a small scale by Native Americans. During most of the 1800's, people of European descent gathered them at wading depths or from beaches where storms had washed them ashore. Scallop shells were also and continue to be commonly used in ornaments.

Some fishing for bay scallops began in the 1850's and 1860's, when the A f tame dredge became available and markets were being developed for the large, white, tasty scallop adductor muscles, and by the 1870's commercial-scale fishing was underway. This has always been a cold-season fishery: scallops achieve hall size by late fall, and the eyes or hearts (adductor muscles) remain preserved in the cold weather while enroute by trains and trucks to city markets.

The first boats used were sailing catboats and sloops in New England and New York. To a lesser extent, scallops probably were also harvested by using push nets, picking them up with scoop nets, and anchor-roading. In the 1910's and 1920's, the sails on catboats were replaced with gasoline engines. By the mid 1940's, outboard motors became more available and with them the numbers of fishermen increased. The increases consisted of part-timers who took leaves of 2-4 weeks from their regular jobs to earn extra money. In the years when scallops were abundant on local beds, the fishery employed as many as 10-50% of the towns' workjorces for a month or two. As scallops are a higher-priced commodity, the fishery could bring a substantial amount of money into the local economies.

Massachusetts was the leading state in scallop landings. In the early 1980's, its annual landings averaged about 190,000 bu/yr while New York and North Carolina each landed about 45,000 bu/yr Landings in the other states in earlier years were much smaller than in these three states. Bay scallop landings from Massachusetts to New York have fallen sharply since 1985, when a picoplankton, termed "brown tide," bloomed densely and killed most scallops as well as extensive meadows of eelgrass. The landings have remained low, large meadows of eelgrass have declined in size, apparently the species of phytoplankton the scallops use as food has changed in composition and in seasonal abundance, and the abundances of predators have increased. The North Carolina landings have fallen since cow-nose rays, Rhinoptera bonsais, became abundant and consumed most scallops every year before the fishermen could harvest them. The only areas where the scallop fishery remains consistently viable, though smaller by 60-70%, are Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, Mass., and inside the coastal inlets in southwestern Long Island, N.Y.
Subject: Scallops (Natural resources)
Fish industry (History)
Fish industry (Production management)
Fisheries (History)
Fisheries (Production management)
Author: MacKenzie, Clyde L., Jr.
Pub Date: 06/22/2008
Publication: Name: Marine Fisheries Review Publisher: Superintendent of Documents Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Agricultural industry; Business Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 U.S. Department of Commerce ISSN: 0090-1830
Issue: Date: Summer-Fall, 2008 Source Volume: 70 Source Issue: 3-4
Topic: Event Code: 230 Production management
Product: Product Code: 0913070 Scallops; 0900000 Fishing, Hunting & Trapping NAICS Code: 114112 Shellfish Fishing; 114 Fishing, Hunting and Trapping SIC Code: 0913 Shellfish; 0912 Finfish; 0921 Fish hatcheries and preserves
Geographic: Geographic Scope: North Carolina; Massachusetts Geographic Code: 1U5NC North Carolina; 1U1MA Massachusetts; 100NA North America
Accession Number: 195982567
Full Text: Introduction

The major harvesting area for bay scallops, Argopecten irradians irradians and Argopecten irradians concentricus, in eastern North America has been coastal bays from Massachusetts through Long Island, N.Y., and in North Carolina (Fig. 1). From the 1870's to the mid 1980's, the fishery was important economically and culturally to communities on the shores of southern Cape Cod, Buzzards Bay, and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket in Massachusetts; Peconic Bay in eastern Long Island, N.Y.; and Bogue and Core Sounds, N.C. At times in the past, smaller bay scallop fisheries existed in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Virginia.

In the years of large landings, the fishery provided local communities with considerable economic vitality in the fall and winter when business activity was often otherwise slow. Bay scallop landings over this range averaged nearly 300,000 bushels of live scallops/year from 1950 to 1985, but only about 40,000 bu/yr from 1986 to 2005 because the abundance of scallops declined sharply after 1985. A bushel of scallops in Massachusetts and New York contains about 350 scallops that yields about 6 pounds of meats (adductor muscles). A bushel of scallops in North Carolina contains about 250 scallops that yields about 5 pounds of meats.

This paper includes a review of the biology, autecology, and habitats of the bay scallops, Argopecten irradians irradians and A. i. concentricus, a description of scalloping gear and uses, the characteristics of the fishery including marketing, a history of each state's fishery and landings, the environmental changes in the habitats during and since the 1980's, and attempts made to restore the fisheries and landings. A description of the habitats provides some details on how the recent rises in temperature and pollution are affecting aquatic environments. Besides bay scallops and other commercial bivalves, the habitats are nursery and feeding areas for coastal and oceanic fishes besides a wide variety of other biota. Most biological and ecological information described relates to A. i. irradians from Massachusetts to New York. A substantial amount of the information reported here was collected from personal observations and from interviews of long-time bay scallop fishermen, town shellfish officers, and state shellfish resource management personnel. The names of the principal informants are listed in the footnotes. The landings data are assumed to be a rough reflection of the abundance of bay scallops in each locality, because the fishermen have consistently harvested nearly all the older year class of scallops in bays each year throughout the history of the fishery.

Biology and Ecology

Bay scallops are distributed widely over the bottoms of bays and harbors. Adult scallops are spaced randomly at least 2-6 in (5-15 cm) and usually much further apart from one another. They lie flat, unless lodged among dense grasses, usually eelgrass blades. Adults do not attach to one another or to any substrates. Individuals are oriented in different directions, rather than perhaps toward or against the water current, and each commonly lies in a slight depression, perhaps 0.3 in (1 cm) deep in the sand sediment. The scallops can be concentrated in shallow channels, but they are absent on both intertidal and extremely shallow sand bars.

The following description of the biology of the bay scallop is quoted almost entirely from the outstanding report on the bay scallop of Massachusetts written by D. L. Belding and published in 1910. The report contains a description of its shell and anatomy of its soft parts, mode of reproduction, feeding, and growth in the region from Massachusetts to Long Island, N.Y. It will not be otherwise cited in this section; only additional material will be cited. Descriptions of the biology and ecology of A. i. concentricus are also included.


Shell and Growth Line

The bay scallop has two valves (shells) that are nearly round. They are joined on a straight hinge line by a thin ligament. The lower valve on which the scallop rests on the bottom has a paler color, is more convex, and also differs from the upper in having a byssal notch. The valves are slightly wider than long. The northern bay scallop, Argopecten irradians irradians, is slightly smaller and is lighter in weight than the southern scallop, Argopecten irradians concentricus.

The average dimensions of a fully grown adult northern scallop (from Martha's Vineyard) are: length, 2.4 in (6 cm); width, 2.5 in (6.6 cm); thickness of whole scallops, 1.1 in (2.8 cm). The average weight of an individual valve is 11 grams. The average dimensions of a fully grown adult southern scallop (from Bogue Sound, N.C.) are: length, 2.7 in (7.2 cm); width, 2.9 in (7.6 cm); thickness of whole scallop, 1.5 in (3.7 cm); the average weight of a valve is 21.3 grams (Fig. 2). The valve hinge lines of both are straight to the end of well-developed "ears."

The outer surface of the shell of A. i. irradians has prominent ridges and furrows that radiate from the beak to the margin. Not counting those that extend onto the "ears," they number from 14 to 19 in different scallops, young and old, the average being 16. The furrows fit closely together at the margin when the valves close. Crossing the radiating ridges are thin concentric growth lines. Growth ceases during winter, and when it resumes again in spring a distinct growth line is formed by the thickened edge of the shell (Fig. 3). The presence of this growth line defines an adult scallop, according to regulations in the states. The scallop then is about 10 months old. The location of this line usually is 1.15-1.5 in (30-40 mm) from the hinge, but it varies between 0.4 and 2.5 in (10-65 mm), depending upon the size of the scallop when it ceases growing in the fall.

The inner shell surface is smooth and somewhat vitreous. Ridges and furrows exist, but they are not as conspicuous. The scallops' eyes are located near the outer edge of each valve.

The light shell is suitable for movement through the water, and its rounded thin form offers the least resistance for swimming. When the scallop swims, streams of water are forced by the aid of the mantle through small openings in the mantle near the "ears." The two subspecies, Argopecten irradians irradians and Argopecten irradians concentricus swim using the same method.

Internal Organs

The inner side of the bay scallop's valves is lined with a thin ciliated mantle that is attached to other living tissues (Fig. 4, 5a, b). Its free edge possesses numerous guard tentacles or tactile organs and blue bead-like eyes (Fig. 6a, b). The margins of the mantle are thickened lobes. When the scallop is resting, the lobes are held slightly apart. The mantle secretes shell and ligament and is also involved in water circulation and particle movement within the pallial cavity. Beninger and Le Pennec (1991) believe the mantle may be a site for the exchange of gases.

The guard tentacles vary in size and form and have a sensory function. When the scallops lie undisturbed, the tentacles lengthen and wave slowly in the water currents. The bay scallop eyes, blue and about one-fifteenth of an inch (1-1.5 mm) in diameter, are at the tips of short stalks which extend outward from the middle fold of the mantle lining the circumference of the valves and are among the tentacles; each usually is located within one of the furrows of the shell. The eyes, found in association with both the upper and lower valves, can detect movements in the environment at distances greater than required to cast a shadow. The guard tentacles will be withdrawn immediately at the passing of a shadow or at any slight disturbance (Wilkens, 1991). Bay scallops also appear to have an olfactory sense, because they swim away from starfish, Asterias forbesi, placed near them.



The adductor muscle (called the "eye," or "heart" in the fishery) is posterior to the center of the shell, and consists of a large anterior section and a smaller posterior section (Fig. 7a, b). This posterior section is tougher for a person to chew than the anterior section. When the muscle is cut from a valve, the valves immediately gape open, being forced apart by a V -shaped cartilaginous elastic pad in the middle of the hinge.

Toward the hinge of an adult scallop is a small muscular foot extending from the upper part of the visceral mass dorsally for about a quarter of an inch (8 mm). A byssal gland, on the proximal end of the foot, secretes a bundle of threads, termed the byssus by which the juvenile scallop anchors itself to an object.



Male and female reproductive organs are found in each adult bay scallop. The testis usually is cream-colored and lies just ventral to the digestive gland and foot and extends down the side of the ovary, which during the spawning season becomes bright orange. The gonad's surface is nearly solid black during some months. The ovary is larger than the testis. During the early part of the spawning season when the testis and ovary are full of spermatozoa and eggs, the reproductive organs are well-rounded. After completion of spawning, they become smaller and paler.

In the early part of the spring, the sex products begin to ripen. Once gametogenic maturity is reached, the most important stimulis for spawning is temperature (Barber and Blake, 2006). Sastry (1966) reported that in A. i. concentricus, gonad growth is timed to when phytoplankton is most abundant, so the scallops can accumulate reserves in the body for maintenance and growth of the gonads, and also food is available for the scallop larvae. Photoperiod also may influence reproduction. Laboratory experiments showed that an increase in reproduction condition (ripeness) will occur when the daily light hours are increased each day while the temperature is maintained constant. This observation has been made in A. i. irradians and other scallops (Couturier and Aiken, 1989; Devauchelle and Mingaut, 1991; Paulet and Boucher, 1991; Villalejo-Fuerte and Ochoa-Baez, 1993; Saout et al., 1999; Desanctis et al., 2006).

The final ripening of A. i. irradians takes place during May, when the water temperature has reached 45.5[degrees]-50[degrees]F (7.5[degrees]-10[degrees]C), and the scallop is prepared to spawn during the first part of June (also cited in Bricelj et al., 1987). The spawning season lasts from mid June to mid August; the greater part of the spawning may be at any time during this period (Fig. 8). Though not documented, bay scallops probably behave similarly to oysters, Crassostrea virginica, to maximize fertilization of their eggs. In the oyster, males initiate the spawning of females by releasing sperm into the water. Females draw in the sperm and this triggers them to release eggs immediately into the water to mix with the sperm for fertilization (Galtsoff, 1964). If so in bay scallops, the male portion of their organ would spawn and then other scallops take in the sperm and the female potions of their gonads would spawn. Each scallop probably spawns a few million eggs a season. Year-class success apparently depends upon the numbers of sperm and eggs produced (Barber and Blake, 2006), fertilization success, and survival of the larvae and juveniles.





Pennington (1985) has made some observations of the sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, that may have direct application to bay scallops. He found that when the urchins spawn, their sperm becomes exhausted quickly. The sperm lost potency so rapidly that less than 10% fertilization resulted when 20-minute-old sperm were added to fresh eggs. Thus, the urchins' sperm must fertilize eggs minutes after they are spawned or they will not have the capacity to fertilize them. He suggested that adult urchins probably group together and then spawn synchronously, so their sperm and eggs will be concentrated and result in a relatively high fertilization rate. Egg fertilization would be far less successful if the adults were spaced far apart, especially if their sex products were scattered by currents.


Future tests involving bay scallops may show that when adults spawn within eelgrass meadows their sperm remains concentrated and has a good chance of being detected in sufficient quantity by other scallops to stimulate them to spawn eggs and more sperm. If the sperm were released on otherwise plain bottoms, it is more likely to be so scattered and its concentration so diluted that fewer scallops could detect it and spawn. Moreover, a mass spawning by a given number of adults within the meadows would likely result in a higher rate of fertilization than a spawning on plain bottoms because the sperm and eggs would remain close together.

The fertilized eggs develop into free-swimming larvae that feed and respire as they grow. After about 14 days, the larvae settle and attach to substrates, such as eelgrass (Fig. 9a). Where eelgrass is absent, other surfaces provide a substrate for bay scallop larvae to attach, but they do not offer the small scallops the cover protection that eelgrass offers. The alternate surfaces include pebbles and stones (Fig. 9b); the shells of dead scallops, mussels, and common Atlantic slippersnails (quarter-decks), Crepidula fornicate; glass bottles; concrete blocks; and, since the late 1950's, codium, Codium fragile, that was introduced to U.S. waters (Fig. 10). Codium is a dark green siphonous alga. In the fishery, it now goes by its generic name, but has also been called "dead man's fingers" and "sponge weed."

The larvae of A. i. irradians in eastern Long Island are 150-190 [micro] long when they attach to substrates (Tettlebach, 1986; Eckman, 1987). The optimal temperature for growth and survival of A. i. irradians larvae lies between 68[degrees] and 86[degrees]F (20[degrees]-30[degrees]C), and the optimal salinity lies between 20 [per thousand] and 30 [per thousand]. Scallops grow well at constant temperatures of 59[degrees]F (15[degrees]C) and at 90[degrees]F (30[degrees]C), but not at 50[degrees]F (10[degrees]C), and they do not survive a temperature of 95[degrees]F (35[degrees]C). They also do not survive a salinity of 10 [per thousand] (Tettlebach and Rhodes, 1981).

In a study conducted on Long Island, N.Y., in the 1990's, Tettlebach et al. (1999) reported on the spawning of bay scallops in late September, October, and maybe even early November following an earlier June/early July spawning. Then, Conant (1), in a study in 2000 and 2001, described a similar fall (September) spawning in Nantucket Harbor. A similar fall spawning also occurs in Cape Poge Pond, Martha's Vineyard. Referred to as "nubs" in Nantucket, the juvenile fall recruits pass through the winter at 0.2-0.8 in (5-20 mm) long, and in spring have a growth line on their shells a distance of 0.2-0.8 in from their umbos, rather than the 1.2-1.6 in (30-40 mm) distance that Belding (1910) had reported for bay scallops on southern Cape Cod.


The biology of A. i. concentricus is somewhat similar to A. i. irradians. As noted, A. i. irradians in the northeast spawns mostly in the spring, but A. i. concentricus in North Carolina spawns mostly in the fall (Bishop et al., 2005). The North Carolina fishermen and biologists notice the juvenile scallops ("spawns") in April but not before. They believe there is some spawning in the spring and most is in the fall (Smith (2)).

Erratic Annual Quantities

The quantities of bay scallop seed (juveniles) and subsequently market-sized scallops produced in various bays has varied widely from year to year, ranging from small, to medium, to large. The seed quantities bear little relationship to the quantities of adult scallops present that had spawned them. The principal controlling factors are: 1) production of the number of larvae by the adults (this is discussed below in Bay Scallop Habitat), 2) survival of larvae while swimming, feeding, and growing in the water to setting size for roughly two weeks, and 3) survival of the post-set juveniles from the time they set and attach to substrates to a size of perhaps 10-12 mm when most release themselves from substrates.

Survival of the swimming larvae probably depends mostly upon the quantities and species of phytoplankton available for them and also water temperature and predation. In bivalve hatcheries, workers have found that bay scallop larvae will grow only when fed specific species of phytoplankton. In contrast, the larvae of oysters and northern quahogs, Mercenaria mercenaria, will grow when fed a far wider range of species. Various scientific studies have shown that the presence of various phytoplankton species in natural waters is highly variable, by hour, by day, by week, by season, and by year. Their variability is commonplace: species populations often appear and disappear within a week; groups of various species replace each other; and the biomass levels and blooms vary widely by season and by year. The fluctuations can be caused by temperature, cloud cover, nutrients, grazing by zooplankton, and probably additional factors (Veldhuis et al., 1997; Gaard et al., 1998; Smayda, 1998; Thompson, 2001, Thomas et al., 2003; Dagg et al., 2006; Smetacek and Cloern, 2008). Such an irregular pattern of species occurrences suggests that the foods that bay scallop larvae require for survival are only sporadically present.




Little study has been made of the mortalities of bay scallops in the beds, except for noticing small scallop seed in the stomachs of scup and probably other fish and ducks. Most mortalities in bivalves occur in the post-set juveniles, and they are caused by juvenile and adult predators. Studies in Europe have shown that predation rates by the shrimp, Crangon crangon, on recently-set bivalves can be high and they have been increasing in recent decades probably due to the warming trend. Crangon crangon can consume at least 90% of juvenile bivalves (<0.3 mm long). The numbers of shrimp and their destruction of bivalves vary among years (Van der veer et al., 1998; Beukema and Dekker, 2005). MacKenzie (1981) reported that mortality rates of juvenile eastern oysters caused by predators in Connecticut can be nearly 100%, but the predation rate is highly variable among years and oyster beds. Loosanoff (1964) provided evidence that predation rates on juvenile bivalves varies each year when he showed that annual occurrences of the predacious juvenile starfish in Connecticut ranged widely over a 25-yr period.


Bay scallops have two periods of growth corresponding to the summers of their lives, and two resting periods during their winters. Their sedentary life begins when the swimming larvae attach to substrates in July or shortly thereafter, and they grow rapidly, often 10 mm/month. Growth ceases in December and is again resumed around 1 May of the following year, when the water temperature has reached 45[degrees]-50[degrees]F (7.2[degrees]-10[degrees]C). The same scallop ceases growth in the fall, usually in the latter part of November, slightly earlier than the young set of that year, when the water has again fallen below 45[degrees]F. The growth rate slows during the spawning period; the scallop grows twice as fast in May and August through October as it does in June and July. Scallops in eel-grass meadows grow more slowly than those on plain bottom where water currents are faster. Most scallops die in the late winter and early spring when 24-26 months old. A few scallops live beyond 26 months, and some individuals may reach the age of 36 months (Marshall, 1960; Tettlebach, et al., 1999).


The act of swimming begins with the bay scallop lying on the bottom, with its guard tentacles extended. The scallop then suddenly folds the tentacles back so that they lie closely against the outer border of the perpendicular mantle. The valves then close by a quick action of the adductor muscle (clap) and water is expelled forcibly, posteriorly, and near one of the "ears." The valves quickly open and clap again. The water is driven out posteriorly again but, this time, near the opposite ear. The scallop makes successive claps, in which the water is driven out from alternate ears, so it swims in a zig-zag line slanting upward to keep moving, and, in shallow water of 3-12 ft (1-4 m), it soon rises to the surface. Not being able to take in any more water by opening its valves, the scallop gives a final squirt and it sinks to the bottom in a new location with its shell closed. The average distance covered in a single swim can be as much as 10 ft (3 m). Scallops can also dart in a dorsal direction; the water is expelled with a quick squirt from the ventral portion of the valves.

Not built for continuous traveling, the bay scallop requires time to rest between each flight, and often many hours elapse between swims for an individual. MacDonald et al. (2006) found that exhaustion was a likely reason the scallops desist in clapping. Repeated valve clapping can be maintained for only a few minutes, and the scallops afterward do not respond to further stimulation and remain with closed valves while they rest.

Long distance travel of bay scallops is possible when external forces, such as storm winds driving strong currents, move them, but this is a matter of chance. Extended and directional movements never occur. A scallop may move to various parts of a bay or harbor, especially if currents are strong.


The bay scallop obtains food, principally diatoms (Belding, 1910; Davis and Marshall, 1961), by means of its ciliated gills which consistently beat and move water through the body cavity. The edge of the mantle, when extended, acts as a curtain to close the space between the valves. A pseudosiphon is formed in the curtain with the result that a continuous stream of food-laden water passes through the mantle cavity over and through the gills, which collect the food, and the water goes out in a definite area in the posterior side of the shell. The water stream carries wastes from the anus and gills.


Several studies have been conducted on the genetic traits of bay scallops. The following has been reported:

1. The genetics of A. i. irradians from New York, Connecticut, and Martha's Vineyard are similar, and they differ from the genetics of North Carolina's A. i. concentricus (Xue et al., 1999).

2. Bay scallops (A. i. irradians) have excellent responses to selection for improved growth. This could have importance for future hatchery rearing of bay scallops (Stiles et al., 1996).

3. Preliminary results for A. i. irradians showed: a) the scallops manifest inbreeding depression in their early stages by decreased survival to the larval stage and to metamorphosis, and by retarded growth of larvae and early juveniles, b) shell marks seem to be reflective of genotypes with a significant genetic component, and c) different inbred lines will have different degrees of fitness to habitats (Stiles and Choromanski, 1995).


A sketch of the principal bay scallop habitats was written by Marshall (1960): "The estuaries in which the bay scallop occurs have the following hydrographic features: The basin is relatively shallow (mostly 3-10 ft, 0.9-3 m), with resulting high ratio of tidal volume to the volume of low water; the circulation is such as to retain the planktonic scallop larvae in sufficient numbers for reseeding and to provide an adequate supply of phytoplankton food, perhaps in part supplied by offshore waters."

The shoreline relief of bays and harbors, though usually low, provides them with some protection from being washed ashore by wind storms (Fig. 11). In the northeast, the bays are commonly 0.5-3 miles (0.8-4.75 km) across, and have fairly level bottoms of firm sand and muddy-sand that contain some shells and pebbles, and also broad eelgrass meadows. The bay waters have temperatures that range from about 64[degrees] to 70[degrees]F (18[degrees]-21[degrees]C) during summer and from about 35[degrees] to 43[degrees]F (1.5[degrees]-6[degrees]C) during winter.

The presence of eelgrass and other grass meadows provides several positive attributes for bay scallops. They slow the water flow over the bottom (Fonseca et al., 1982; Eckman et al., 1989; Gambi et al., 1990), and, when bay scallops spawn, their sperm and eggs likely remain mostly within the meadows and thus, as noted, fertilization would have a much better chance to occur than otherwise. After his observations of the sea urchin, S. droebachiensis, Pennington (1985) suggested that fertilization rates of eggs in slow currents are likely higher than in swift ones, and, even if the sperm and eggs were long-lived, good egg fertilization would probably be rare in swift currents. This may also be true for bay scallops that spawn in beds devoid of eelgrass meadows.

Future tests involving bay scallops may show that when adults spawn within eelgrass meadows their sperm remains concentrated and has a good chance of being detected in sufficient quantity by other scallops to stimulate them to spawn eggs and more sperm. If the sperm were released on otherwise plain bottoms, it is more likely to be scattered and its concentration so diluted that fewer scallops could detect it and spawn. Moreover, a mass spawning by a given number of adults within the meadows would likely result in a higher rate of fertilization than a spawning on plain bottoms because the sperm and eggs would remain together.


The bay scallop larvae, when fully-developed and ready to set, cling to eelgrass blades or other objects with their foot and then form byssal threads that set them onto the blades (Eckman, 1987). The larvae do not crawl over the substrate before attaching to it as do the eastern oyster larvae (Galtsoff, 1964). The timing of attachment coincides with the annual peak in eelgrass biomass, at least on Long Island, N.Y. As the scallops grow and become heavier, they add more byssal threads (Adamson, 1982).

The early life of the bay scallop consists of a series of attachments and dislodgements, with brief swimming periods. The scallop can cast off the byssus at will, move, and soon produce another. The threads are broken off at the byssal gland and left adhering to the object of attachment. Eelgrass provides only an ephemeral substrate for scallop attachment because it sheds its senescent blades as new ones are formed; the blade turnover is 6-18 days during the time when the scallop larvae set. The scallop retains the power of byssal fixation throughout life, but seldom makes use of it after the first year (Eckman, 1987). This attachment stage is followed by a permanent relocation to the bottom where scallops live unattached, usually but not exclusively, within eelgrass beds (Thayer and Stuart, 1974).

Attachment onto eelgrass blades provides bay scallop juveniles with an above-the-bottom partial refuge from bottom predators. In an experiment on eastern Long Island, N.Y., juveniles tethered to eelgrass above the bottom experienced about a 60% mortality from crab predators, especially green crabs, Carcinus maenas, and longnose spider crabs, Libinia dubia, against 90% mortality of scallops located near the sediment surface. The refuge effect was less with the say mud crab, Dyspanopeus sayi, since it climbed eelgrass blades to prey on the scallops (Ponle et al., 1991). The attachment of juveniles on codium probably provides a somewhat similar above-bottom refuge.

According to Garcia-Esquivel and Bricelj (1993), juvenile bay scallops remain attached to eelgrass blades until they reach a length of about 0.4 in (11 mm), when some locate to the bottom. Others remain attached, but over a 5-week period, nearly all the scallops go to the bottom, and, at a mean length of 1.2 in (31 mm), all are on the bottom. The small scallop recruits to the bottom have the capacity to swim in quick bursts so they can avoid predators. The scallops that have grown to at least 1.6 in (40 mm) have a partial size refuge from predators (Tettlebach, 1986), and, in eelgrass meadows, the densely-spaced blades provide them with partial cover from their predators (Prescott, 1990).

On shallow flats, eelgrass protects scallops from being washed ashore by strong onshore storm waves. Andrews (1990) reported that scallops were abundant where eelgrass grew in shallow areas in Nantucket Harbor during the 1920's, but when the eelgrass died in 1931 and was absent for nearly two decades, scallops were absent from the flats because they were washed ashore after setting on small objects. Since the 1950's, when the eelgrass returned, the scallops are present again in some shallows.


Scallops are often most abundant and grow the largest just inside the inlets of bays. At times, they are also found outside the bays in less protected sound waters where the depths are deeper, 12-20 ft (4-6 m). Eelgrass does not grow in the deepest bay scallop environments unless the waters are exceptionally clear.

The identified bay scallop predators in the northeastern waters are oyster drills, Urosalpinx cinerea; knobbed whelks, Busycon carica (Fig. 12); say mud crabs; longnose spider crabs; green crabs, C. maenas; starfish (Rivara (3)); northern puffers, Sphoeroides maculates (Rivara (3)); tautog, Tautoga onitis; eider ducks, Somateria mollissima (Whittaker (4)); and scup, Stenotomus chrysops (Whittaker (4)) and, along shallow shores, gulls (Family Laridae) (Fig. 13) (Belding, 1910; Pohle et al., 1991). Among these, spider crabs probably are not important predators of bay scallops.


In North Carolina, the predators include say mud crabs; knobbed whelks; blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus; and cownose rays, Rhinoptera bonasis. Where the scallops grow on shallow flats, ring-billed gulls, Larus delawarensis; and herring gulls, L. argentatus, prey on them during low tides (Prescott, 1990; Bishop et al., 2005).

In recent years, large changes in the distributions of two major bay scallop predators have been observed. The starfish, once listed as the most serious predator of scallops, especially in Buzzards Bay and found in many scallop habitats (Belding, 1910), has nearly disappeared from the bay scallop habitats in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Long Island, N.Y. On the other hand, cownose rays have become more abundant and have caused great destruction to the bay scallops in North Carolina (Peterson et al., 2001; Myers et al., 2007).

On the beds from Massachusetts to New York, fishermen had to desist from harvesting sometimes for a few weeks if ice covered the bays during mid winter. When the fishermen returned to harvesting, they found some of the scallops, adults and seed, dead. The scallop meats were intact, but the scallop openers noticed that the muscles did not move as they always did when they removed the upper shell of the adults. The dead muscles could not be included with the others, or all the muscles in the container would spoil. The cause of the mortality is unknown.

Bay scallop shells, being thin, do not accumulate as oyster shells do on beds. Most adult scallops are caught by fishermen, but the shells of those that die on the beds do not persist. They gradually become thinner and finally disappear after 2-3 years (Conant (1)). The only bay scallop shells that are more than a few years old are found intact in buried sediments (Hopp (5)).

Indian Middens

Pre-Columbian Native Americans collected bay scallops for food on a small scale. The shells that anthropologists collected from middens left by the Native Americans on Martha's Vineyard, Mass., probably are similar to those in other areas in southern New England. They were dated between 2270 B.C. and AD 1565 (Table 1) by carbon measurements (Ritchie, 1969). The Martha's Vineyard natives had a nearly permanent residence near coasts where shellfish were abundant. A semi-sedentary way of life in small family or extended family groups is suggested (Ritchie, 1969).

The findings on Martha's Vineyard show that mollusk harvesting was common. The shells of species most easily taken were the most abundant in the middens, and included northern quahogs; softshell clams, Mya arenaria; bay scallops; blue mussels, Mytilus edulis; ribbed mussels, Geukensia demissa; oysters; and to a lesser extent slippersnails; conchs (whelks), Bus ycon carica and Bus ycotypus canaliculatus; and moonsnails (Naticidae). The most common shells often occurred in discrete masses of single species amounting to a bushel or more (Ritchie, 1969).

Bay scallops were scarce in the oldest (deepest) strata of the middens. This was explained by the scallops' being difficult to catch as they are mobile and inhabit deeper waters. Their valves were more common in the uppermost (youngest) stratum of the middens. Some pottery fragments were found that had impressions of scallop shells on them. Based upon the bones found, the diet of the Native Americans included other animals, mainly the white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus; and also seals, Phoca vitulina; red foxes, Vulpes vulpes; raccoons, Procyon lotor; dogs, Canis lupus; squirrels, Sciurus carolinensis; ducks, Anatidae; and brant, Branta bernicla (Ritchie, 1969).

History of Harvesting Gear and Methods

In the 1870's, the first years of the commercial bay scallop fishery, the boats used for harvesting were rowboats, dories, catboats, and sloops; all but the rowboats were under sail. These types of boats were already present in various harbors when the bay scallop fishery began. The principle developments over time that increased the efficiency of bay scallop harvesting were the introduction of: 1) dredges in the late 1800's, 2) inboard gasoline engines that replaced sails in vessels in the early 1900's, 3) outboard motors in the late 1930's and 1940's, 4) 18 to 20 ft (about 5.5 m) fiberglass boats in the 1960's and 1970's, and 5) motor-powered hoists on boats to retrieve the dredges in the 1960's.

Scallop fishermen have worn boots, cotton or water-proof gloves, caps, pants, and jackets (initially the pants and jackets were made of oilskin--muslin cloth saturated with linseed oil--but eventually rubber was mostly used). In the early 1900's, some fishermen wrapped newspaper around their legs and feet for warmth inside their boots.

Rowboat or Skiff

Flat-bottomed wooden rowboats, 9-14 ft (2.7-4.25 m) long, were used for dredging scallops. In the early years, rowboats were propelled by oars, and since the 1940's by outboard motors when dredging. Rowboats were also used for anchor-roading and picking up ("picking") scallops (both are described in later sections), and also as tender boats used by the fishermen to get from docks to their catboats and sloops that were tied to stakes or buoys. Local carpenter shops made rowboats for scallopers.


The dory was common in Massachusetts harbors as early as the 1850's (Andrews, 1990). It was ordinarily used on offshore fishing grounds, such as Georges Bank, for hauling trotlines set mainly for cod and haddock and for hauling harpooned swordfish, Xiphias gladius. The sides of a dory are high and flaring, its V -shaped transom deep, its bottom flat, and its overall length is 15-17 ft (4.6-4.9 m) and 12 ft (3.7 m) along the bottom. Dories were fitted with a single mast and a mutton (3-cornered) sail to dredge for bay scallops. They were not ideal for dredging as they were unstable.



Catboats, widely used to dredge for scallops in the northeast until the 1960's, had a keel length of 18-23 ft (5.5-7 m) and a broad beam (the length to width ratio was 3.5 to 1) that provided a wide spread for towing several dredges and a large deck for handling dredges, culling, and storing bay scallops. Catboats had a shallow draft and were initially sail powered (Fig. 14, 15a, b).

Fishermen tied a heavy rope onto the mast and circled it around the boat's narrow deck (Andrews, 1990; Hiller, no date). The lines to the dredges were fastened to this rope. The dredges could also be fastened to cleats along the rails of the boats. Fishermen commonly tied their dredges only on the stern and one side of the boats, because they sailed somewhat quartering rather than straight ahead. Manila rope, about three-quarters inch (20 mm) in diameter, was used to tow the dredges until World War II. Afterward, it was replaced by polypropylene line, which is thinner, stronger, lasts much longer, and is not easily lost since it floats (Fig. 16) (Hall, 1984).

Maneuvering the sailboats out of and into wharves crowded with other boats could be difficult. Once underway, the fishermen could reef their sails to maintain the catboats at proper dredging speeds (Fig. 17) (Anonymous, 1895a). Raising or lowering the centerboard also helped to control its movements, and, in the shallowest waters, it could be used as a brake by letting it scrape the bottom. When boat owners and their mates needed to caulk and paint their boats, they hauled them up the slopes of beaches over planks and rollers (Fig. 18). The sails of catboats had to be raised and dried every time heavy rainstorms wetted them to prevent rotting (Fig. 19) (Andrews, 1990).

In the early 1900's, fishermen installed auxiliary "make-and-break" gasoline engines of 5-10 hp in their sailing catboats. The engines had a long bolt for a spark plug at the head of the engine and a six-pack of dry cells furnished the spark. Gas fed into the carburetor by gravity. The engines were difficult to start, they were not sufficiently powerful to do more than assist the sail, they had a narrow range of speed, and they did not have a reverse. To go in reverse, the skipper cranked the engine the opposite way and the engine ran backwards.

Upon installing larger engines, the fishermen removed the mast and sail and replaced the mast with a stub mast, 2 ft (60 cm) high, above the forward deck. The fishermen tied a rope onto the stub mast and circled it around its narrow deck as they had done when sail was used.

Adjusting the pull of the motor to the drag of the dredges was difficult. If towed too fast, the dredges did not touch the bottom; if too slowly, the dredges collected too much sand and could bring the catboat to a stop. The engine helped to maneuver the boats at the docks and moorings. In landing at a dock, the skipper stopped the engine a short distance away hoping he would reach it but not hit too hard. He used a long oar off the stern either as a brake or to scull as needed. The mast and sails were reinstalled following the scalloping seasons for summer sailing.



In the mid 1930's, the auxiliary engines were replaced with more powerful second-hand, four-cycle automobile engines which had to be converted for marine use. The installation of engines in scalloping boats could be considered as a "revolution" in the fishery, because they greatly enhanced the operations of the catboats. The fishermen then referred to their catboats as "power boats."

Cabin Sloop

Cabin sloops along with catboats were used for harvesting bay scallops in New York and Rhode Island waters in the late 1800's and early 1900's (Fig. 20, 21, 22). They had a 35-40 ft (10.7-12.2 m) keel with a4-5 ft (1.2-1.5 m) overhang. Their hulls often were lined with bricks or oyster shells for ballast. Afterward, sloops were phased out of scalloping, but catboats continued to dredge under sail into the 1920's.

Water that had leaked into the hold of catboats and sloops was removed with a hand pump made from a round galvanized iron pipe. The pump had a diameter of 4 in (10 cm), stood about 4 ft (1.2 m) high, and had a leather valve at its bottom and a 6 in (15 cm) spout near its top; a wooden plunge stick was inside. The fisherman put the end of the pump into the deepest part of the hull, poured water into its top to prime it, and then rapidly raised the plunger up and down; water was sucked up the tube and it spilled out the spout onto the deck and out its scuppers.



The sharpie was used to some extent to dredge for bay scallops (Ingersoll, 1887). Relatively long and narrow with a flat bottom and a shallow draft, it had 1 or 2 masts that supported triangular sails.



Skiff and Outboard Motor

Skiffs (wooden rowboats), 12-15 ft (3.7-4.6 m) long, began to replace catboats in the bay scalloping fleets when outboard motors became available in the late 1930's. The scallopers considered outboard motors to be a great boon. Their use constituted another "revolution" in the scallop fishery, and with their availability many more men, especially the part-timers, had the opportunity to earn extra money by scalloping. Narrower than catboats, the skiffs had a more cramped working space. Fiberglass skiffs later supplanted the wooden rowboats. The landings of scallops in each bay increased when outboard motors became available, because the fishermen could harvest scallops in more locations than when catboats were the main dredging boats, especially when they were under sail, and they could also get in more harvesting days before an ice cover formed and prevented further scalloping until it melted.

In the late 1930's, the first outboard motors available had just 5 hp and cost about $100 each. With such little power, a skiff had to dredge across a bay scallop bed with, but not against, the direction of a swift current. The motors did not have a reverse gear, so to go in reverse the fishermen rotated it 180[degrees] (Palmer (6)). Over the years, the fishermen purchased larger outboard motors as they became available. An 18-hp outboard could tow as many as 8 dredges (Reynolds (7)). When the landed prices of scallops rose in recent years, the fishermen purchased larger 25-40 hp engines for $3,000-$4,000 (Fig. 23).

Bay scallopers in motorized catboats referred to the group of outboard motor boats as comprising the "mosquito fleet" (Fig. 24). But despite the difference in the sizes of the boats, the crews in each type of boat caught the same quantities of scallops, i.e. no more than the local town or state limit, and each made about the same amount of money in a season.

Power Lift on Skiffs

In the 1960's, Massachusetts fishermen began rigging power lifts on their 16-20 ft (5-6 m) outboard-motor skiffs, to aid in hauling, lifting, and emptying their dredges, thus saving the heavy labor in doing this. The introduction of the power lifts constituted a third "revolution" in the bay scallop fishery. The lifts consisted of a metal A-frame or else a square frame mounted in the center of the boat 4-6 ft (1.2-1.8 m) above the deck with 1-2 pulleys at the frame's peak. Directly below the pulley of an A-frame, a 3-5 hp gasoline engine with a hauling disc was fastened to the boat's floor (Fig. 25). The fishermen pulled in some line to a dredge, swung a loop of it over the pulley, and then wound the line around the hauling disc to retrieve the dredge. When this lift became available, some fishermen used heavier dredges, up to 55 pounds empty, this weight being the maximum legal limit for dredges used for scalloping in some towns.

North Carolina Dredging Boats

The North Carolina dredging boats included flat-bottomed wooden skiffs with one-cylinder engines, skiffs with outboard motors, and wooden boats 2325 ft (7-7.6 m) long, with automobile engines. The boats towed 4 A-framed dredges (termed "drags" locally); the dredges had nylon net bags top and bottom and they never were used with pressure plates. The dredges gathered scallops on bottoms consisting of a surface of mud and grass. Such bottom surfaces would not wear out or tear the net, so a metal ring bag on their bottom was not needed. In place of pressure plates, the fishermen often tied window weights onto the dredges. The weights were removed where the sediment bottoms were especially muddy or shelly (Smith (2)).



To have their dredges spread in a wide path over the bottom, the fishermen attached a sturdy pole 2 x 4 in (5 x 10 cm) across their boats near the bow on which to tie the dredge ropes. The pole extended as far as 3 ft (0.9 m) beyond each side (Fig. 26, 27). On some boats, the pole was placed near the bow, and the dredges were towed with short ropes of equal length, so the dredges were on a line with the stern of the boat while being towed; the distance between the dredges was about 2-6 in (5-15 cm). The fisherman attached thin lines to each dredge rope so they could pull them over to the boat when retrieving the dredge. The dredges were emptied onto a culling board (locally termed "cull tray") lying across the stern of the boat. Other fishermen placed the pole farther aft, and the dredges were then towed about 6 ft (2 m) back of the stern (Gutsell, 1929). Some of the scalloping boats were used for blue crabbing and finfishing in other seasons (Smith (2); Willis (8)).



By the 1960's and 1970's, most North Carolina dredging boats were constructed with recessed tunnels in their bottoms near their sterns to house their propellers driven by inboard motors. The tips of the propeller blades extended only 4 in (10 cm) below the bottom of the boat. This design allowed them to tow dredges in areas containing scallops where waters were 2-4 ft (60-120 cm) deep. Outboard motors could not be used in such depths. The boats continued to be fitted with spreader poles. Some towed 6 rather than 4 dredges when the bay scallops became scarcer. Dredges were towed slowly. The fishermen picked the scallops off the cull tray into half-bushel or one-bushel baskets and emptied them into large sacks; second-hand coffee bags were commonly used (Smith (2)).

Dredging or Dragging

Dredging has been the principal method for harvesting bay scallops throughout the history of the commercial fishery. The scallop dredge or "drag" is 28-36 in (70-90 cm) wide and has a long V -shaped iron bridle for effective towing and ease in bringing it aboard boats. In most states, its bag has a heavy linked chain (Fig. 28) or a thin bar on its leading edge at the bottom (Fig. 29), metal rings comprise its bottom in most locations, and cloth netting, 3-4 in (7.5-10 cm), comprises its top. It holds about a bushel of material (Anonymous, 1885a). A wooden stick, about 1.5 in (4 cm) square, can be attached across its back so the fisherman can get a good grip on the bag to lift for emptying. In the 1980's, the fishermen in some Massachusetts bays began using "pan dredges," so called because they have a pressure plate ("diver") attached (Fig. 30). They scrape harder against the bottom and collect more scallops (Fig 31) (Sherman (9); Pierce (10)).

Belding (1910) described how only portions of bay scallop grounds are productive in any one year and how the locations of productive grounds vary among years. The fishermen knew the locations where the scallops were likely to be abundant at the beginnings of seasons, because they had observed where seed was abundant when they harvested during the previous year and when they had been quahoging just a few weeks or days earlier (Poole, 1965).

When scallops were concentrated along the edges of shoals or in narrow channels, the catboat fishermen using sail had to wait until the wind was in the proper direction to harvest scallops. All the boats had to go in the same direction, and in channels they were arranged in a line with the wind. As many as 50 sailboats at a time worked on a large bed (Andrews, 1990).









Wind speed determined the number of dredges a sail boat towed: 1 or 2 in a light wind, and as many as 12 in a strong wind. In a strong wind, the crew took in two reefs in the sail. At the end of a drift, the fishermen had the sterns of their catboats facing the wind or oncoming water current while retrieving the dredges so the boats would not drift back over the dredges as they were hauled. After finishing a drift, the boats tacked back to the windward side of the bed to begin dredging again.

By constantly pulling their dredges to determine their contents, fishermen knew just where a bay scallop bed began and ended. In a catboat that had two fishermen towing 6 dredges, each drift had to collect at least a half bushel of scallops for them to obtain their daily limit, and still have the time to open all the scallops by late afternoon. If below a half bushel, the fishermen shifted to another bed. The dredging boats usually made about 10-12 drifts (runs) across beds/day to harvest their daily limit.

When fishermen with motor boats begin dredging for bay scallops in dense meadows of eelgrass, they do not get the scallops easily until several days later because by then the dredging had "worn" some of the eelgrass off the beds (Fig. 32). The rhizomes and roots of the eelgrass plants remain undisturbed beneath the sediment surfaces. When a boat tows 6 dredges, 3 on each side, the first dredge comes in nearly full of eelgrass and few scallops, the next dredge catches less eelgrass and more scallops, and the third dredge has the most scallops. The first dredge catches most of the loose eelgrass in the path while it also stirs up the scallops behind so they are taken more readily by the dredges that follow. A strong northeast storm, usually in December, blows most loose eelgrass ashore or into hollows and the best harvesting comes after this. The eelgrass grows back the following year (Fig. 33).


Many fishermen dredged for scallops in three locations, for at least an hour in each during a day. They could obtain their limit in one of the locations, but by going to the other locations they were disguising from the other fishermen the location where they obtained most of the scallops and also determining the quantities of scallops on other beds for the harvesting days ahead.

The dredges were hauled aboard and emptied of scallops and shack onto the culling board. The scallops were picked off and tossed into pails or baskets and the shack and seed were pushed overboard, while the boat was towing the dredges on another drift. Ten or more gulls often followed the boats, looking for an opportunity to swoop down and catch some of the crabs among the shack before they sank below the reach of their beaks. If a gull caught a crab (commonly a spider crab) in its beak, it flew to a shore, rose higher, and dropped it onto a jetty stone or roadway to crack open its carapace, leaving its soft tissues available to pick out as food. Whenever scallops were exceptionally abundant and clean (no shack or seed with them), the Nantucket fishermen used dust pans to remove them from the culling boards and empty them into containers (Reinemo (11); Sayles (12)).



The best fishermen landed the most scallops in a season. Besides being stronger and more persistent, they knew the bottoms of their local bays as well as they did their own back yards. Each day, the most competitive fishermen tried to be the first in a fleet to head for the docks with their limits. Such fleets could be comprised of catboats and outboard-motor boats (Fig. 34).

The containers for scallops on the boats changed over the years. In the first years, fishermen held them in woven coal baskets, then in the early 1900's to 1950's state-issued burlap bags, in Massachusetts at least (Fig. 35), and nowadays plastic boxes and baskets are used. The Massachusetts bags held 2 bushels of scallops and the name of the town was stamped on them in large black letters. The boxes hold about a bushel.

In the 1950's, a method of harvesting bay scallops in Menemsha Pond, Martha's Vineyard, involved a large motor boat towing a line of motorless rowboats, each with a fisherman and towing two dredges. The fishermen retrieved and emptied their dredges every several minutes. The boats were towed in a circle so some of the dredges from each boat would be on new grounds (Gaines (13); Flanders (14)). The fishermen in each rowboat paid the crew of the motor boat for towing them.

Use of Small Gear


The pusher was one of the earliest gears used to harvest bay scallops. It consists of a rectangular iron frame, measuring 3 x 1.6 ft (0.9 x 0.5 m), with a net bag, attached to a wooden pole 8-9 ft (2.4-2.7 m) long (Fig. 36). The scalloper waded across the shallows at low tide and shoved his pusher ahead through the eelgrass. When the bag was partly filled with scallops, he picked out the scallops and put them into his rowboat or dory (Belding, 1910).


Fishermen have used modified quahog rakes, 2-2.6 ft (60-80 cm) wide, for harvesting bay scallops. They welded a bar across the front of the teeth, to prevent the rake from digging into the bottom. While standing in small drifting boats, the fishermen pulled the rakes over the bottom to collect the scallops. This rake was used in eastern Long Island (Bourguignon (15)) (Fig. 37, 38, 39) and in the early 1900's also in Westport, Mass. (Pierce (10)).


Anchor Roading

Some bay scallop fishermen in the Peconic Bay area and on Martha's Vineyard and perhaps other areas, harvested scallops using a method termed "anchor roading" (fishermen commonly substituted the word road for rope) at least during the 1940's and likely much earlier. Rowboats were used. The remaining gear consisted of a light-weight iron anchor attached to a rope at least 150 ft (45 m) long, one or two dredges, and a pair of oars. When two dredges were used, they were fastened to the opposite corners of the boat's stern. The anchors used in all types of boats, Massachusetts to North Carolina, had a moveable cross pin so they could be laid flat when not in use. They were constructed by local blacksmiths.

Anchor roading was perhaps the most labor-intensive type of bay scalloping. The fisherman rowed up-wind or up-current to the far side of a scallop bed. He tossed his anchor ahead of the boat and jerked the rope to set it into the bottom, then rowed the boat stern-first into the bed to the end of the rope. He tossed out his dredge(s) as far as he could, stepped to the bow, and pulled the rope hand-over-hand back to the anchor, and fastened the rope to a cleat. He then went to the stern, pulled in and emptied the dredges onto the boat's back seat, set them aside, and picked out the scallops and tossed over the shack and seed scallops. The anchor rope was then released from the bow, and the boat was again rowed into the bed. The procedure was repeated several times until the harvests became too small. The anchor then was pulled and tossed far to the left or right so new ground would be dredged, and the process was continued. During the 1930's, at least 90 men on Martha's Vineyard harvested bay scallops by the anchor roading procedure. Anchor roading ended when the outboard motor became available to tow the dredges.


Picking-Up, Picking, or Dip-Netting

Small numbers of fishermen in some bays harvested bay scallops that were in water depths of 3-8 ft (0.9-2.4 m) by picking them up one at a time. This method was observed being used in the late 1870's (Ingersoll, 1887), and from the 1930's to the 1980's by 10-15 fishermen each on Martha's Vineyard and in Peconic Bay, Long Island, N.Y. It was termed "picking up," "picking," or "dip netting" (Fig. 40). The gear required was a rowboat, a home-made look-box ("peep-sight"), a scoop net, and a drag anchor (a discarded iron weight without a hook so it could not anchor in the bottom).


A look-box is 1.0-1.5 ft (30-45 cm) high and it tapers toward its upper open side. The opening is square, about 9 in (18 cm) on a side. The bottom of the look-box, also square, is 1 ft (30 cm) on a side, with a clear pane of glass sealed into it. After the fisherman wets the glass to remove the glare on its surface, he can see clearly the scallops on the bottom. The scoop net has an 8-inch (20 cm) diameter ring on one end of an 8 to 9 ft (2.4-2.7 m) pole, and it holds about 25 scallops (Flanders (14)) (MacKenzie, 1992).





When harvesting bay scallops using a look-box, the rowboat drifts slowly over a bed with a drag anchor over one side, which while sliding over the bottom maintains the boat at a proper speed. The scalloper leans over the opposite side with his knees against the side of the boat, holding the look-box by its handle with one hand and his scoop net in the other. His face is against the top of the box as he peers through it at the bottom. He positions the scoop net straight down and the bottom of the ring is 2-3 in (5-8 cm) above the bottom. When he sees a scallop, he hits its closest side with the bottom of the ring and it rolls into its net. Upon filling the net with about 25 scallops, he brings it up to the boat and empties it. A good rate of catch is about one bu/hr.

Recreational fishermen currently wade along the shallows using a look-box and scoop net and a wire basket attached to the inside of a float ring (usually an old automobile tire tube). Their scallops are tossed into the basket.

In North Carolina, fishermen harvested bay scallops on broad shallows, 6 in to 2 ft (15-60 cm) deep, while wading and using a scoop net similar to the one described above to gather them. The sediments in the shallows as in the deeper waters are a firm "sticky" mud, which meant that fishermen had to pull their feet out of the mud to take each step. The scallops could be seen easily during calm winds, but on windy days the choppy surface of the water made it difficult to see the bottom. To harvest scallops, each fisherman anchored 3-4 duck decoys in a row 4-6 ft (1.2-1.8 m) apart and upwind of the harvesting area. He laid a cloth that he had saturated with menhaden, Brevoortia tyrannus, oil over each decoy and placed the cloth so some of it touched the water and an oil slick was released over its surface. The fishermen could then see the scallops. He then had to wade through the slick into the tidal current, because his steps lifted into the water a cloud of mud that flowed with the current away from him, and he scooped the scallops. He emptied them into floating baskets; when full, the baskets were set on small floating crafts ("bunts") (Fig. 41, 42).




Opening Scallops

In a typical day during a bay scallop season, the fishermen landed their daily limit of several bushels of scallops on docks around noon. They had decided where they were going to harvest on the following day during the running time of 10-20 minutes from the harvesting beds. They spent most of the afternoon opening the scallops. (16) If a fisherman had 5 bushels, he would have a pile of nearly 1,800 scallops to open. This would take him about 3 hours to finish. The fishermen were tired at the end of the work day because they had to stand continuously while running their boat, hauling in and emptying their dredges, and culling the scallops. While they opened scallops, they had to stand in one spot until finished. The only breaks taken were to pile more scallops onto their bench and to roll their barrels of shells outside to empty (Fig. 43). If some people had to open all day, they took turns standing and then leaning against a stool while they opened to ease the physical strains, especially in their backs. When finished, they went home with cash in their pockets that totaled about the same amount as each of the other scallopers, but substantially more than nearly all the other workers in their community.

Bay scallops were opened in wooden shanties, fish markets, and in garages, cellars, and kitchens in fishermen's homes. Nearly all were opened on the day in which they were harvested; if not, usually in the morning of the following day. The shanties were commonly arranged in groups of 5 or more on docks or along shores, and when fishermen landed their scallops, they had to carry them perhaps no more than about 75 ft (23 m) to the shanties and fish markets (Fig. 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49). The shanties measured from 10 to 20 ft (3-6 m) long by 10 ft (3 m) wide, and they had a bench about 3 ft (0.9-1 m) wide, and about waist high running along their lengths. The scallops were dumped onto the benches for opening and packing (Belding, 1910).

A harvest of bay scallops has some biological characteristics that identify the particular area from which they were harvested, and, when a fisherman set his scallops on docks or brought them into a fish market to be opened, the other fishermen usually glanced at them to determine where they had been harvested. Scallops from one area may have barnacles on their shells, while from other areas they may have attached slippersnails; the common jingle, Anomia simplex; white coiled worms, Spirorbis borealis; or white sponge-like tunicates (Didemnum sp.). Scallops from different areas also may have various types of grasses (eelgrass, moss-like red algae, and codium) mixed with them. Also, the color pattern of the scallop valves can differ among areas (Lane (17)).

A knife of unique design has been used for opening bay scallops. Its blade is 2 in (5 cm) long, has a rounded end and is sharp on one side but blunt on the other. Its handle was initially made of wood, but for sanitary reasons it now has to be plastic (Fig. 50). The opener holds the scallop in the palm of his/her hand with its hinge facing his finger tips. The scallop's "eye" being off-center is closer to the scallop's right side when the top or flat side is facing upward. A right-handed person inserts the knife into the slit between the two valves, gives it an upward turn to cut the "eye" away from the upper valve, then this valve is pushed upward with the knife far enough that it breaks away from the lower valve and it falls into a 25-30 gallon barrel resting on the floor below his hands. The blade then is pushed against the lower valve and circled around and against the "eye." The opener's thumb grasps the guts (mantle and visceral rim) against the knife blade, and he tears them away from the "eye" toward him, and drops them into the barrel with the shells (Fig. 51). The "eye" is scraped off the lower shell and flipped in one motion into a gallon can sitting to his right on the bench.

The opening moves are made quickly: A typical person opens about a gallon (480 "eyes")/hr. A 32 quart bushel of whole scallops (350 scallops) yields about 3 quarts or 6 pounds of scallop "eyes." The noises heard in an opening house are the scraping of the knife blades against the valves, the shells and guts landing in the barrels, and the low voices of the openers remarking to each other about the scalloping season (Poole, 1965). Note: The southern scallop in North Carolina has a larger mass of guts than the northern scallop; the opener places his thumb on the "eye" ("heart") and then lifts off the guts in one pull. If he grasps the guts as he would for a northern scallop, he would tear off only a part of them and then have to make another grasp or two to remove the entire mass.

In the late 1800's and early 1900's, fishermen could harvest bay scallops each day until dark, but most arrived at the landing docks in the late afternoon. Some town men, women, and children came to the shanties to earn money by opening scallops as soon as they were landed. The openers used kerosene lanterns to see in the shanties at night. The scallops were packed in butter tubs, and the next morning, the dealer came, paid cash for them, and sent them to markets (Hiller, no date).

The fishermen's wives, mothers, brothers, and children age 10 years and above were commonly involved in opening the bay scallops. The openers also included retired men and some others, who were employed in 8-hr day jobs and opened scallops in the evenings and on Saturdays to earn extra money while it was readily available to obtain.

The openers were paid according to the volume they produced. They desired large scallops because they had the largest "eyes" and hence filled containers faster. They pleaded with the fishermen not to go for small scallops that the fishermen might harvest more quickly. Those with small meats usually came from dense eelgrass meadows. In a particular day, if the quantity of scallops available to the openers was limited, competition among them was keen to open as many as possible before the supply was exhausted.

In Massachusetts, whenever bay scallops were scarce in a town and a nearby town had a large supply, some openers, including the unemployed scallop fishermen, earned money by driving each day to the other town to earn money by opening scallops. On Martha's Vineyard, as many as 20 people from other island towns went to Menemsha to open whenever Menemsha Pond had large landings (Fig. 52) (Flanders (14); Poole (18)). Dealers sometimes purchased unopened scallops in one town and drove them to another to be opened.

Bay scallops cannot be shipped to markets alive in the shell because they gape and close continuously and their soft tissues become dry. They die in a day or two and begin to decay. Besides, the freighting of whole scallops to markets would be more costly.

The refuse from opening bay scallops consists of the two valves and the guts. Most of the guts have always been discarded with the shells on piles where gulls have eaten them (Fig. 53). From at least the early 1900's through the 1920's, some guts were retained for fish bait and even as garden fertilizer. On Martha's Vineyard, the guts were often salted and sold to commercial finfishermen for about a $1.00 a bucket, to be used as bait on trotlines (handlines laid on the bottom with spaced fish hooks) to catch Atlantic cod, Gadus morrhua, and haddock, Melanogrammus aeglefinus, and also to bait eel pots. The salted guts were also sold to anglers to use as bait for scup, Stenotomus chrysops; black sea bass, Centropristis striata; and summer flounder, Paralichthys dentatus, during summers (Fig. 54) (MacKenzie, 1992). The shells later were trucked to town dumps, or spread on driveways (Fig. 55), or on farmers' fields to "sweeten" acidic soils (Sayles (12)), or were used as cultch to collect seed oysters (Sayles (12)) (Belding, 1910).








Overview of the Fishery


The bay scallop fisheries have been regulated by public agencies almost since their beginnings (Fig. 56). The legal season once began at the beginning of September, the same as the oyster season. However, the states and coastal towns have pushed the dates farther back, usually to October 1st and in some locations to November 1st (Anonymous, 1894). Scallops grow somewhat during October and a slightly larger volume of scallops and meat yield will be available if they are left until November for harvesting (Belding, 1910). Besides, many fishermen were committed to other jobs and did not want to leave them in September and October. The legal season lasts until the end of March.

Bay scallops are unique among four of the principal commercial bivalves landed in bays and estuaries along the Atlantic Coast of North America, in that two year classes, rather than several as with oysters, quahogs, and softshell clams, make up their populations. This makes it easier for management agencies to regulate the scallop fishery. State authorities allow the fishermen to harvest the entire older year class, but they must leave all the younger year class, the juveniles, in the beds. Scallops cannot be over harvested as long as this rule is followed. In the fishery, juveniles are termed "seed" or "spat" as is the case with other bivalves, but they are also called "bugs" in New York and "spawns" in North Carolina. The legal rules also relate to gear restrictions and sanitary rules regarding the processing and packing of scallops.


The Limit

The quantity of scallops that a fisherman is legally allowed to take each day is referred to as the "limit." The daily scallop catches are limited in each state, and in Massachusetts, at least, the towns have ruled that limits would be smaller than the state limit (Fig. 57). When abundant, bay scallops can be harvested quickly with dredges-up to 2-3 bushels/drift with 6 dredges-and the grounds could be depleted of scallops too fast in the absence of the daily harvest limit. The purpose for establishing limits was to spread earnings over an extended time and to prevent nearly all available scallops from being sent to market during the first weeks of seasons, a circumstance that would have flooded the market, resulted in low prices, and brought less money into the towns' economies.

The challenge scallopers faced each morning as they headed for the beds was to obtain their limits (Fig. 58). The term, limit, was mentioned regularly by the scallopers:

"Today, I got my limit by 9:30."

"I couldn't get my limit today because I couldn't find them."

"He took his wife with him last week and got two limits every day."

Importance to Local Communities

The residents of scalloping communities have been proud of their good-tasting, highly-priced bay scallops and their attractive shells that are observed in many types of decorations (Fig. 59). When such local names as "Cape scallops" (Cape Cod), "Nantucket scallops," and "Peconic scallops" (Peconic Bay, Long Island) have been used, they suggest a superior food. The cost for communities to have scallops on their beds is extremely low, so the money derived from the scallop harvests, especially during the years when the scallops were abundant, boosted the local economies considerably during winters. Moreover, community residents looked forward to eating meals of bay scallops every new season, and many relished the mornings just before dawn when (from the 1920's to the 1950's) they awakened in their beds and heard the loud, uneven sound of the "put-put" engines in the scalloping boats as they were leaving the harbors for the scallop beds (Mello Silva Jeffers (19)).

The scallop is a high value product that provides a high return per unit of fisherman effort, and fishermen liked being paid in cash for their scallop meats, usually between 3 and 6 p.m. every afternoon. Individual fishermen, especially those who brought along their wives on their boats so two limits could be landed each day, could earn enough money to purchase ample clothes and shoes for their families, pay their taxes, have plenty for Christmas, and have some left to put in the bank. Their wives considered going with their husbands as well worthwhile financially, and their work of culling the scallops was not difficult. When the seasons began at the first of October, the money earned by scalloping was made by Thanksgiving (Warncke (20)) (MacFarlane, 2002). The fishermen liked the money, freedom, independence, and the peace and quiet of a scalloping season, besides working among a fleet of boats and other fishermen they knew. Bay scalloping was their way of life in the fall and winter (Waring, 1988).





The suppliers of fishermen's gear, i.e. outboard motors, dredges and anchors, rope, work clothing, and gasoline, and also the local food markets noticed that their sales increased during the good scalloping years. On the other hand, seasons of low scallop abundances resulted in slower local economies.

Scallop fishermen have been adaptable. They have tried to keep two or three job opportunities available. They have preferred to go scalloping, because they have their boat and gear available, they have the skills and knowledge to make good harvests and to open the scallops, and scalloping would bring them the most money. But when scallops have been scarce, they have worked, at least part-time, at the other types of jobs.

Most bay scalloping communities have been summer resorts. During the fall and winter, the local bays may be occupied by scallop fishermen, whereas during the summer they are occupied by summer people, who are sailing and fin-fishing, and some quahogers. Summer tourists usually do not come in contact with the scallop fishery, except for noticing a few idle scalloping boats tied to docks with dredges left in them, but they may find bay scallops on the menus of seaside restaurants. The restaurants had kept them frozen since the previous fall and winter.

A Free-For-All Fishery

Bay scalloping always has been a "free-for-all" fishery, meaning that all local residents have had a legal right to purchase a commercial license and then harvest the scallops within limits of the law. A scalloping fleet had two categories of people. The men who made most of their living as fishermen comprised one category. In Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and eastern Long Island, most dug quahogs or took out parties of tourists fishing and sailing on their catboats during the warmer months, while some in North Carolina pursued a series of seasonal fisheries including netting shrimp, trawling and potting blue crabs, trawling for flounders, and catching finfish with pound nets and haul seines (Smith (2)).

Part-timers comprised the other category of bay scallopers (Fig. 60). Most were painters, plumbers, store clerks, police officers, potato farmers (in New York) and, in the late 1800's and early 1900's, even livery stable workers (Anonymous, 1895d). The part-timers entered the fishery only in the years when scallops were relatively abundant and easy to harvest. They pursued the fishery for the first 2-4 weeks of a season, and at this time their numbers could far exceed those of the regulars. After the 1940's, the part-timers also included men who regularly caught sea scallops, Placopecten magellanicus, and finfish on ocean-going boats. The part-timers, who worked in the towns, earned more money/week, perhaps by 50%, scalloping than they had been earning/week in their regular jobs.


The numbers of part-timers in the fleets were relatively small during the first decades of the 1900's when catboats were the common vessels (some were mates on 2-man boats), but their numbers increased sharply after the late 1940's, when outboard motors became available to propel wooden rowboats. During the years when scallops were abundant, the numbers of regular fishermen, part-timers, the openers, and other workers (packers in fish houses and delivery men) comprised from 10 to 50% of the workers in the smaller communities. The part-timers have also been able to enter the fisheries for softshell clams, quahogs, and oysters, but far fewer have done it because they are not as lucrative.

The bay scallop fishery was easy to enter because the types of boats, especially rowboats and dories, that fishermen have used were common around waterfronts, and also minimal skills were required to harvest scallops. Scooping scallops with a net, hauling and dumping the contents of dredges, culling the scallops from grasses, shells, crabs, conchs, and seed scallops and then opening the scallops were all easy-to-do processes. Only the hauling of dredges hand-over-hand, and carrying a few baskets and bags of scallops from boats to opening places required any heavy work. The harvesting beds could be found by observing where the regulars were dredging.



Beginning in the 1930's, some wives went on the boats with their husbands so the couple could get a double limit of bay scallops. Improved oil clothes and better cold-weather clothing including gloves made this possible for women (Fig. 61a, b, c, d, and e). The husband operated the boat, hauled, emptied, and tossed out the dredges while the wife stood on the opposite side of the culling board and picked out the scallops, tossed them into baskets, and pushed the shack overboard.

Most of the same men (and women) and boats comprised the bay scalloping fleets in a town each year, but some younger men were joining and some older men and others were leaving the fleets. Some young men began their careers as scallopers by using the second-hand boats, outboard motors, and dredges owned by a relative, such as an uncle, and later purchased better equipment as they needed it (Warncke (20)).

Each fall, before the seasons opened, unofficial fishermen surveys of bay scallop abundances were made. News of the results spread rapidly to about every household in the communities because interest in the size of the year's scallop crop was high: A large quantity of money might be entering the economy. This word-of-mouth news alerted the part-timers and helped them decide whether to go scalloping. It was common for two part-timers to purchase a wooden rowboat, a secondhand outboard motor, and two dredges so they could harvest together. They were able to pay for the purchases with the money they obtained from their scallop sales within a week of harvesting.

During the few weeks of a scallop season, the part-timers took the bulk of the bay scallops from the beds, referred to as the "cream." The full-time fishermen then had a harder struggle to get their limits and make a good day's pay in the weeks that followed because only the "scraps" remained. The full-timers slightly resented the presence of the part-timers, but they had become used to them.

In many of the good years as winters wore on into January and February, most of the full-timers gradually quit scalloping because the catches became too small to provide a day's pay, but in the good years some "die-hards" harvested scallops into March. As fishermen became older, they found that scalloping dragged them down physically and also mentally when they were on the scallop beds near the end of a season, especially when their families needed money and few scallops were available to harvest (Willis (8)).

Different attitudes prevailed among the fishermen regarding harvesting large or small bay scallops. The large scallops brought the fishermen more money, but the small ones usually were more abundant and limits could be obtained earlier in the day. Some went after the small ones so they could get in early and spend most of their time opening indoors.

In the latter half of the 1900's, the bay scallop fishermen got to the harvesting beds in one of three ways. Some had their boats tied to docks or stakes along the harbors' edges. They drove their vehicles from home to the docks, a distance of perhaps 1-3 miles (1.8-5.4 km), and got aboard their boats tied at the docks or to the stakes a short distance from the dock, getting to those by their rowboats. Upon leaving the stakes, they left their rowboats tied to them. The second way was to drive their vehicles to the shores of bays and harbors and get into their small boats that were hauled onto the edges of shores. The third way was to launch their boats daily and haul them out on their trailers to park over night at home (Fig. 62). The distances to the scallop beds ranged from 0.5 to 3 miles (0.9-5.4 km) with a traveling time of 10-20 minutes. As winters grew colder and the first ice formed around their docks, the fishermen had to break through it to get to open waters and the scallop beds. The scallopers in Buzzards Bay, at times, hired a tugboat from New Bedford to break the ice out of a channel (Hiller, no date).

The lengths of bay scalloping seasons depended upon scallop abundance and also on how long ice covers during mid winter prevented scalloping (Fig. 63a, b). In some seasons, the scallops were so scarce that only the regular fishermen sought them. The 1916 scalloping season in Massachusetts was so poor that it was considered a failure, and it meant the loss of many thousands of potential dollars in revenue to the Cape Cod towns of Chatham, Harwichport, Dennisport, and South Yarmouth. The owners of boats turned their attention to cod fishing which began a little later than the opening of the scalloping season (Anonymous, 1916c).



The First Decades

The first accounts of the bay scallop fishery and the major bay scallop market, i.e. New York City, were written by scientists and reporters for the Fishing Gazette, Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, and similar publications. Ingersoll (1886) wrote one of the first which he published in the American Scientist:

"The bay scallop first appeared in the New York markets as an edible food in 1858 or 1859. It then became sold in them every year since. The annual supplies are highly variable. Total production is about 75,000 gallons (100,000 bushels of unopened scallops) with a value to the fishermen of $25-30 thousand. New York City receives about 3/4ths of the landings. About 250 men and 470 women (in total) are engaged in the fishery as harvesters and preparers of the scallops for markets.


"The scallop fishery exists only between Cape Cod and New Jersey, except at a few locations southward as far as Morehead City, N.C., for a small local trade. The fishery was regularly pursued only in Buzzards Bay, Narragansett Bay, and in Peconic Bay, Long Island (note: Ingersoll was not aware of scallops off the south coast of Cape Cod, and on Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket). Long Island Sound, Raritan Bay, and much of the New Jersey shore once had some scallops, but they have become scarce. Scallops at times are present here and there, but only temporarily. The Long Island Sound scallops became scarce because the fishermen did not throw the seed scallops back to the beds. The same was true in Raritan Bay and along the New Jersey coast.



"The scallops are caught by hand-dredging from small sail boats. The dredges are about 30 in (75 cm) wide and on windy days several are towed from each boat. In shoal water, a dip-net is used to gather the scallops on calm days.

"The scallop openers are men, women, and girls, who earn from $0.80 to $1.25/day. The scallops' "eyes" (adductor muscles) are flipped into a basin of yellow stoneware which holds a gallon. They are then poured into a large colander, thoroughly washed, placed in clean boxes and shipped to New York City and Brooklyn. As little fresh water or ice is placed in contact with the meats as possible so as not to weaken their firmness and flavor. Since this is done in winter, ice usually is not needed in transportation. Local farmers took some of the refuse (shells and "guts") to spread on their fields as manure; they plowed in the shells.

"Oyster planters also took the shells to spread on their seed beds as cultch; they paid $0.03-0.05/bu for them. The oyster planters preferred scallop shells to oyster shells because, being thin and fragile, they break under the strain produced when the oysters grow. It gives the oysters room to grown in an oval shape."

An article published in 1897 (Anonymous, 1897b) reflected upon the bay scallops near the end of the 1800's: "When one considers that half a century ago the toothsome scallop was eaten only by a few local people, and was entirely unknown in the great markets, it is a matter of surprise to note their popularity in the seaboard towns, and also the large number of men who now make a good living by capturing this deservedly favorite mollusk, which seldom reaches markets far inland for two reasons--the shell is too fragile for shipment even if the "meat" would keep long out of water, and the second reason is that the demand in the seaboard cities is greater than the supply. The scallop became a favorite in the cities, and consequently a profitable object of pursuit less than 25 years ago."

In the late 1880's and early 1900's in New York City restaurants, bay scallops fried with bacon was the most popular way this mollusk was served, although it was sometimes broiled or stewed. In New York restaurants, the order termed "half and half' was often given, which meant oysters and scallops, or it was sometimes: "A fry, half scallops," A "fry" referred to oysters (Anonymous, 1903a).

Landings and Prices

Historical data on the annual quantities of bay scallops landed and their landed dollar values by year are available from the report by Lyles (1969) and the NMFS Statistics Division, Wash., D.C. The quality of the data is somewhat poor, because they were collected by shellfish officers who could make only rough estimates of the landings. Considering all the states from Massachusetts through North Carolina together, landings were first recorded in 1880, when 49,000 bushels of live scallops were tallied. Subsequent landings were recorded nearly every year. From 1880 to the late 1990's, they ranged from 21,000 bushels (in 1889) to 386,000 bushels (in 1971). The decade of the 1920's produced an average of about 110,000 bu/yr, but afterward the landings were 2.5-3.3 times larger: an average/yr of 370,000 bushels in the 1930's; and an average 290,000-300,000 bu/yr in the 1950's and 1970's. From 1980 to 1985, they averaged 294,000 bushels/yr, whereas in three 6-7-year periods afterward, they fell steadily. In 1986-91, landings averaged 80,105 bu/yr; from 1992 to 1997, they averaged 60,000 bu/yr, and from 1998 to 2005 they averaged 30,000 bu/yr (NMFS landings statistics).



Over time, the landed prices (uncorrected for inflation) of bay scallops have risen. The prices/gal (= 8 pounds) were from $0.80 to $1.70 in the late 1800's, and averaged $2.10/gal in the 1920's, $1.85/gal in the 1930's (Fishing Gazette articles), $7.00/gal in the 1960's, $15.00/gal in the 1970's, $42.50/gal in the 1980's, $90/gal in the early 2000's, and $15/lb, or $120/gal in 2006 (Sayles (12); Bourguignon (15); Wenczel (21)).

The total bay scallop supply from all the coast-wide production areas was the main influence over the landed price each year. In seasons when many bays in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York had large harvests, the landed prices were consistently low; on the other hand, small crops usually meant higher prices. The average price in one year could be as little as half of that of the previous year. Wholesale marketers controlled the landed prices of bay scallops and the fishermen have been mostly powerless to affect them (Belding, 1910).


In the late 1880's and early 1900's, when the scallop industry had developed, scallop meats were shipped by railroad express to New York City from many harvesting ports from Massachusetts to North Carolina. They were packed in tubs that held from 40 to 80 pounds of meats (Anonymous, 1919a). In the New York City market, bay scallops then were handled in large, medium, and small size categories. The price difference per gallon between the sizes was large (source: articles in The Fishing Gazette):

The grading of scallops into sizes did not endure. It has not been practiced since the 1940's and maybe before that. A batch of bay scallop meats usually has some that are nearly white and some with faint tinges of orange and yellow. Though the scallops were never sorted by color shades, the meats with such tinges were not favored. Some customers would not purchase the scallops unless their "eyes" were as white as the inside of the scallop shell (Anonymous, 1910a).

Soaking Meats

In the first decades of the fishery, wholesale buyers commonly soaked bay scallops in fresh water for several hours to increase their volume before shipping them to markets. Five gallons of freshly opened scallop meats swelled to about seven gallons. Soaking whitened the meats, diluted their flavor, and caused the meats to fragment slightly. The soaking practice was forcing customers to pay the fancy price for some added fresh water (Anonymous, 1915b). Dry (unsoaked) scallops were slightly smaller, the meat was solid, the full flavor was retained, and though retailers charged more for them they sold more readily than the soaked scallops (Anonymous, 1917a).

In about 1915, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under section 7 of the Food and Drug Act, ruled that it was unlawful in interstate commerce to ship or sell bay scallops to which water had been added, either directly or from melting ice. Such food was considered adulterated. Government agents could easily detect soaked scallop meats because they would be lying in milky water that had drained from the meats. Milky water was missing in the containers that held dry scallops. Health officers found that polluted water often was used, and whenever some fishermen had the practice of opening the scallop meats into cans containing fresh water, the cleanliness of the cans and the water came into question.

The fishermen and shippers who had practiced soaking rebelled against the ruling because it meant less money for them. But Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut shippers had to abandon the practice, because the soaked bay scallops were being seized and destroyed enroute to and in New York markets. This had followed notices that soaked scallops were liable to confiscation when shipped in interstate commerce. The ban did not apply to scallops harvested on Long Island, N.Y., since they were shipped to the New York market from within the state (Anonymous, 1915a).

Factors Affecting Market Supplies and Prices

The sizes of bay scallop landings were affected by poor weather, and scallop prices could be affected by factors other than the total supply available. Those factors included the regional quantity being produced, competition from supplies of soft crabs and shad, Alosa sapidissima, a weaker demand at Thanksgiving, and (once) a railroad strike.

Weather and Landings

In the early 1900's, the Fishing Gazette commonly reported that bay scallop supplies in the New York market were low for several days at a time because the fishermen could not harvest scallops. Wind storms, several or more days with only slight winds, and also ice covers could keep the fishermen ashore as the following three examples illustrate. On 30 October 1915, strong coast-wide winds during the week had prevented the taking of bay scallops along the entire east coast: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Long Island, Virginia, and North Carolina (Anonymous, 1915g). In contrast, in November 1920, the supply was short because calm weather prevented the sailboats from harvesting (Anonymous, 1920). During cold periods, especially in January, an ice formation over bays often halted scalloping for 3-6 weeks (Anonymous, 1895a; 1916a).

Some hurricanes negatively impacted the bay scalloping fishery. They damaged some boats, wrecked shanties, and destroyed some sections of eelgrass meadows, some scallop stocks, and altered bay openings.

Too Many at Once

During the first few days of September when the bay scalloping season began, consumer demand was high because the scallops were a novelty in markets. But the price dropped quickly as large supplies came in from several bays (Anonymous, 1936). Massachusetts' Fairhaven Star (16 Oct., 1910b) described a price drop during the first few days of the 1909-10 season: "A large supply of scallops from Cape Cod was responsible for the falling price. On the first day, the fishermen received $2/gal, the second day $1.25/gal, and eventually only $0.80/gallon." And in 1915, the season opened with scallops selling at $2.00/gal, but within 2 days, the price fell to $1.25/gal and remained at that figure. At times, prices were so low, they hardly met the costs of production. However, in 1914, a year of relatively small stocks, the scallop price had reached $5.00/gal, and it remained at about that figure for several weeks (Anonymous, 1915c).

When the season opens, fishermen have hoped that the bay scallops in their local bays were abundant but were scarce in the other producing areas so the prices of their scallops would be relatively high. It was "sour news" if other locations had large crops. For instance, an Anonymous (1919a) article in the Fishing Gazette said, "The present week has certainly been a poor one for those who expected to make a fortune out of scallops. Seldom in the past has there been such a plentiful supply in the east as during the past 10 days, and there has been a run of low prices which have not been seen here in 5 or 6 years. The largest scallops which in 1918 and during 1917 sold for as much as $6-7/gal, this week were on sale at $3.00-$3.50/gal. There are indications of cold weather and, when a heavy frost comes, there will be a freeze-up with an accompanying cutting down in the supply. Then look for higher prices."

Competition from Soft Crabs and Shad Roe

The combined presence of softshell blue crabs, shad roe, and bay scallops in the New York markets led to competition amongst them for customers' dollars. Soft crabs were available in the markets during the warm months, beginning on about St. Patrick's Day (late March) and lasting into fall. When scallops arrived in the market in September, the price of the softshell crabs fell. Near the end of the scalloping season in late March, softshell crabs came into the market again as did shad roe. The crabs and shad roe could bring an end to the scallop season as prices for scallops fell due to the competition (Anonymous, 1916b). An article in the Fishing Gazette (Anonymous, 1915c) described prices near the beginning of the 1915 bay scallop season: "The present bay scallop season probably is one of the poorest that the Long Island fishermen have known in a long time, the supply of stock being much greater than the demand, with prices so low that they hardly pay costs. Many feel that scallops will be higher in price as soon as soft crabs are out of the market."


The demand for bay scallops, at least in the Boston market, was low during the week of Thanksgiving at the end of November, when people had the tradition of purchasing oysters and northern quahogs. Scallop prices were noticeably lower then (Anonymous, 1915h). This trend continues today (Whittaker (4)).

Railroad Strike Problems

In 1919, the employees of the Railway Express Agency went on strike, meaning that the railroad transport of bay scallops and other fishery products to the New York City market ceased. The U.S. Mail Service, that began operations in 1912, was asked to transport the fish, and, oddly enough, scallops had the honor of being the first type of marine product to be so shipped. They were packed in water-tight tubs that weighed 40-80 pounds. Special delivery stamps were used to pay the shipping fee, and the scallops reached markets quickly (Anonymous, 1919a)

When the railroad strike ended, most bay scallopers and shippers returned to using the railroad. The wholesale fish dealers believed that shipping the scallops by Parcel Post had induced the Express Agency to do better, since they now had a real rival. They would not allow the scallops to remain in their terminals any more (Anonymous, 1919a).

Higher Prices for Northern Than for Southern Bay Scallops

Bay scallops, A. i. concentricus, from Virginia (Eastern Shore area, oceanside) and North Carolina, termed "Southern scallops" collectively in the New York City market, sold for substantially lower prices than did northern scallops, A. i. irradians, from the northeastern states. As examples, in January 1915, large dry (unsoaked) bay scallops from the northeast were $2.50-3.00/gal, mediums were $2.00-2.50/ gal, smalls were $1.00/gal, and southerns were also $1.00/gal, while sea scallops were $1.25-1.50/gal (Anonymous, 1915a). In January, 1916, large dry bay scallops were $3.00-$3.50/gal, mediums were $1.75-$2.50/gal, smalls were $1.25-$1.50/gal while southerns were $1.00-$2.00/gal (Anonymous, 1916a).

Bay Scalloping: Individual States


Massachusetts has produced more bay scallops than the other states because it has much larger producing areas (Fig. 64). The scalloping grounds have comprised thousands of acres, many of which were once covered with eelgrass. The recorded annual landings of bay scallops shortly before and after 1900 usually were from 40,000 to 80,000 bu/yr, but from about 1920 to the mid 1980's, they were much higher--from 130,000 to just over 200,000 bu/yr in most years. The installation of motors in the harvesting boats is the main reason for this increase. The landings ranged from 56,000 bushels in 1963 to 296,000 bushels in 1972. Since 1985, the landings have fallen much lower (Table 2).

The scallops are found in many of the state's bays, including those on islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, and also in some coastal areas along the south shores of Cape Cod and in Buzzards Bay. Some occur in southeastern Cape Cod Bay. Nearly all the bottoms consist of hard sand and most are in water 4-8 ft (1.2-2.4 m) deep.


Massachusetts laws regarding bay scallops were formalized in February 1910 (Table 3). Scallop fishermen have been allowed to harvest bay scallops and other estuarine bivalves only within the borders of the towns in which they are legal residents, a rule in effect since in the late 1800's (Anonymous, 1885b). Thus, the towns retained their resources for their citizens. The state has overall jurisdiction over the bay scallop fishery. It sets the broad limits of the harvesting season, and daily harvests/fisherman, and it rules that only scallops containing an annual ring on their shells can be harvested. The state's General Shellfish Act of 1880 entrusted all regulation of the shellfisheries to the town selectmen, who fine-tuned the state laws to the needs of their communities (Belding, 1910). Specifics, such as license fees, minimum temperatures in which scallops can be harvested, daytime hours, days/week, catch limits, and seasonal dates for harvesting are governed by the towns (Martha's Vineyard Magazine, Winter, 1988).

Since the late 1800's, the commercial fishermen had to purchase a license to harvest bay scallops and other mollusks. The towns initially charged about $1.00 for a seasonal license (Anonymous, 1890), but the fee has since risen, and was $2.00 in the early 1900's (Anonymous, 1910b) and in recent years as much as $250/season in some towns. The selectmen usually rule that scallop harvesting is not allowed when temperatures are lower than 28[degrees]F (-2[degrees]C) to prevent the scallop seed from freezing to death (MacKenzie, 1992).

Massachusetts initially did not limit the daily bay scallop harvests of its fishermen. In 1887, boats got as many as 50-80 bu/day (Anonymous, 1915f). In 1895, a state limit was set at 25 bu/man/ day (Anonymous, 1895c; Ryder, 1934). In later years, the limit was reduced to and remains at 10 bu/day. Towns went along with the state ruling until the economic depression of the 1930's, when they reduced it to ease some of the strain of unemployment. With the smaller limits, the scallopers could harvest and obtain money for a longer time each season (Poole, 1965). As examples, Westport and Bourne had a 7.5-bushel limit; Marion and Wareham, a 7-bushel limit; and Yarmouth, a 5-bushel limit. In the towns on Martha's Vineyard, limits were reduced to 2-4 bushels. The limits were large enough for fishermen to earn a living wage. Edgartown currently has a limit of 3 heaping baskets (3 level bushels, plus 3 pecks)/day (with a yield of 20-30 pounds of meat), and Nantucket has a limit of 5 bu/day.

During the first several decades (including most of the 1950's) of commercial bay scalloping, the fishermen were allowed to harvest 6 days/week, Monday through Saturday, but afterward the towns reduced the fishing week to 5 days, Monday through Friday. This lengthens the season and also eliminates from the fishery many of the part-timers who fished only on Saturdays (Kilburn, 1986). When the scallopers miss a weekday because the temperature is too low, they are allowed to harvest on the next Saturday, if the temperature is sufficiently high.

A form of "piracy" by fishermen was the taking of more bay scallops in a day than the limit allowed. A small number (1-2%) of scallopers in each town consistently took from 1 to 4 pecks of scallops/day above the limit. They had to dodge the wardens to be successful (Fig. 65). The honest scallopers quietly resented these acts of the few, but rarely mentioned them to wardens (Sherman (9); Bourguignon (15)).

The fishermen did not take seed scallops because it was illegal to do so and they were too small to be opened, but, in 1893, some New Bedford finfishermen knowingly harvested some seed and adult scallops illegally at night to avoid detection. They mashed them, put them in coarse bags, and sank them on their fishing grounds to attract fish. They caught more scup than the other fishermen (Anonymous, 1893a).

Preservation of Resources

Town officials have attempted to support their bay scallop fisheries by hiring shellfish officers, or wardens as they are often termed, to enforce the limit and seed rules and to keep a close eye on the conditions in the beds and advise the officials about the status of the scallops and other shellfish (Fig. 66) (see Lind, In press). Each town has one main officer and often at least one assistant. The Massachusetts shellfish officers now belong to the Massachusetts Shellfish Officers Association (MSOA). The group meets once every 3 months at sites around the state, to hear about activities and various rulings by the State Division of Marine Fisheries that might affect the bivalves in each town and to hear lectures by marine biologists. When on duty, they wear a uniform with a patch on the sleeve bearing the town's name. The cap they wear has MSOA embroidered on it.

The officers can be involved with other types of management. At times, sections of bays with large quantities of seed scallops have been closed to harvesting of market scallops, seed in poor locations (mostly shallow beds exposed to storms) or washed ashore have been transplanted to areas where they can survive or grow better, and attempts have been made to control starfish, based upon recommendations of the wardens. During the 1930's Depression, some Massachusetts towns paid scallop fishermen to dredge starfish from the grounds. They paid them $0.25/bu, the money coming from the National Federal Works Progress Administration. The starfish were taken by farmers to fertilize their fields. The towns usually appropriate only small sums of money for management projects.


Some towns, such as Nantucket, allow the fishermen to use only small scallop dredges, that are without pressure plates (Fig. 67). The purpose is to prevent dredging from doing extensive damage to the bottom habitat.

Evolution of the Fishery

In Massachusetts, bay scallops were first harvested on a commercial scale in 1874, when the dredge was introduced (Belding, 1910). Before that, the scallops were gathered only by hand or with dip nets or rakes in shallow water, or from beaches when storms had washed them ashore. Some farmers waded into the shallows and gathered them with scoop nets to feed their chickens, scattering them unopened in the chicken pens (Palmer (6); Pierce (10)). As an article of food it was barely known, but people were aware of its highly colored, pretty shell.


Statewide, the fishery began slowly, and in the early 1890's little market existed for scallops, people were not used to eating them, the harvesting gear was inadequate, and ice was not readily available to preserve the meats for shipment to markets (Belding, 1910). Transportation from the bays to shucking sites progressed with time. In the late 1800's, only worn paths existed near most scalloping areas. Some scallops harvested at distances from the fishermen's homes and waterfront shanties were pulled to them for subsequent opening on sleds or carts by horses or oxen (Poole, 1965). At least by 1889, school boys were doing some of the scallop opening, being paid $0.15-0.25/gal. Fishermen then received $1.20-2.00/gal for the meats (Andrews, 1990).



In the 1920's and into the 1930's, the buyers in some towns drove their trucks to the shores to pick up the scallops from the fishermen, who did not have automobiles, and take them to their fish houses for opening. By the 1950's, fishermen carried the scallops on their pickup trucks, trailers (Fig. 68), or in automobile trunks (Fig. 69) or on the bumpers.

The Bay Scalloping Towns

Belding (1910) listed 14 Massachusetts towns that had commercial-sized bay scallop fisheries (Table 4): Barnstable, Chatham, Harwich, Dennis, and Yarmouth on the south shore of Cape Cod (Fig. 70); Fairhaven (Fig. 71), New Bedford (Fig. 72), Mattapoisett, Marion, Wareham, Bourne, and Falmouth in Buzzards Bay; Edgartown (Fig. 73) and Vineyard Haven on Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket (Fig. 74a, b, 75, 76). The range in numbers of active scallop harvesters among the towns was from 12 to 107 men (46, avg.) during the 1907-08 season. Total scallop production in that season was 8,200 bushels from Cape Cod, 6,000 bushels from Buzzards Bay, 3,300 bushels from Martha's Vineyard, and 3,400 bushels from Nantucket. Beyond Belding's list, the towns of Wellfleet and Eastham in southeastern Cape Cod Bay, Westport and Dartmouth on Buzzards Bay; and on Martha's Vineyard, the towns of Oak Bluffs, Chilmark, and Gay Head (now Aquinnah) have produced commercial scallop harvests (Whittaker (4)).


Once underway, the bay scallop fishery became important economically and culturally (Fig. 77, 78). In the early 1900's, it was recognized as a source of great "profit" to the state's coastal towns (Anonymous, 1909). Every August and September, general community interest in the fishery was termed "scallop fever," as people were inquiring about the quantities of scallops that might be available in the forthcoming season (MacFarlane, 2002).

Within a particular town, a season could have a short duration if the bay scallops were scarce. When scalloping years were poor in the late 1800's, some fishermen found employment as laborers harvesting cranberries (Anonymous, 1899a). Some New Bedford men found employment in the city's mills and factories, while some fishermen in other Buzzards Bay towns had to fall back on the Overseers of the Poor for support (Anonymous, 1897a).


The harvests from a large bay scallop crop would bring an enhanced general economy for the town during the fall and winter, and people looked forward to having several scallop meals. The scallops were mostly fried and also cooked in casseroles and chowders. During the past few years, a small market for whole meats of bay scallops has emerged (Whittaker (4)).

Conflicts Between Towns

Conflicts arose in bays where a legal line that separated the territories of two adjoining towns divided beds containing scallops. Joint bays were most prevalent in Buzzards Bay and on Martha's Vineyard. In some years, a continuous scallop bed extended across such a line, the lines being identified by buoys and by shoreline points. In Buzzards Bay, conflicts between the fishermen in the adjoining cities of New Bedford and Fairhaven were common in the late 1800's and were described in the Boston Daily Globe and Fairhaven Star. Such conflicts were also common on Martha's Vineyard, where Menemsha Pond, Lagoon Pond, and Sengecontacket Pond were shared by two towns each. Fishermen from one town often crossed the town line to harvest scallops from the adjoining town's beds, but usually were chased back by the local fishermen.

Composition of Fishermen

The Massachusetts bay scallop fishermen included regulars, who spent most of their working lives as fishermen in their town's waters, and part-timers. The part-timers included some children who went scalloping with their fathers before going to school. They were on the boats for about 2 hours, starting at sunrise, and some went during the school noon hour. They did not have to remain on the boats until their limits were harvested. Their fathers were allowed to harvest their full limits as well as his after they had left for school (Campbell (22)). At the beginnings of good seasons, some boats in Menemsha carried as many as four people each, two men and their wives, who qualified then for 4 limits. The wives went home after the first limits were obtained (Flanders (14)). The men who went scalloping with a boat owner and worked as his mate received 40% of the gross earnings from the sales of the scallops. The captain retained 10% of the mate's earnings to pay for fuel and boat expenses.




Part-timers have been able to enter the bay scallop fishery easily: They needed only a rowboat, drags, and, beginning in the 1940's, an outboard motor. Some people who did not initially have any equipment or previous experience were scalloping, as shown by the following details from Martha's Vineyard.

A bonanza season was awaiting in 1955, so a man and his pregnant wife borrowed an old skiff and 2 dredges, bought a second-hand outboard motor for $75, and set out in a pond for scallops. The husband pulled in the dredges and emptied the scallops onto the culling board, while his wife culled them into baskets. They opened the scallops on a bench in their garage in the afternoons. Never having opened scallops before, his wife cut most in half before being taught how to open them properly, and each night she drove their car 5 miles (8 km) to the local fish market to sell the meats. One day, after scalloping for about 2 weeks, their outboard motor stopped running, and they drifted for about an hour until another fisherman towed them ashore. The wife was not wearing adequate clothing, became cold and disgusted and she quit scalloping. That ended their season even though plenty of scallops remained on the beds (Mello Silva Jeffers (19)).

In the Massachusetts coastal towns, the carpenters received better wages than the other tradesmen and store clerks, and they earned more money than fishermen did during a year. But in the midst of a good scalloping season, the fishermen earned more money/day than they did. Many carpenters were tempted to go scalloping for a few weeks, but, fearing they could lose their jobs, few did. They were aware of the financial condition of the fishermen during poor scalloping seasons and also during the times between every scalloping and quahoging season when the fishermen were often idle for a few weeks.


The 1938 Hurricane

The famous 1938 Hurricane that swept across Long Island and southern New England destroyed most of the bay scalloping shanties. The fishermen afterward had to open their scallops at home, in fish markets, and in a small number of newly constructed shanties. During the 1940's, fish market managers either drove to the fishermen's homes each night to obtain the scallop meats, weigh them using a scale on the truck, and pay the fishermen, or the fishermen drove them to the fish market for sale (Pierce (10)).

After the 1940's and perhaps before, the fish markets were charging the fishermen to use their space to open scallops. The opening houses in some towns disguised this by not charging a fee, but making fishermen sell a "gallon" that weighed 9 pounds, rather than its actual weight of 8 pounds. In these towns, the scores of fishermen who opened their scallops at home or in shanties at the docks also had to sell a gallon that weighed 9 pounds to the fish markets. In the remaining towns, the fishermen were charged either about $1.00 for each of their 2-bushel bags for use of the opening space, a fee for each pound opened, or around $10/week. They were paid for an 8-lb gallon (Warncke (20)). Since the 1950's, Massachusetts has required that bay scallops be opened in state-approved opening houses, cellars, or kitchens having hot and cold running water, toilets, smooth washable walls, cement floors, fiberglass bench tops, and stainless steel knives; stainless steel or plastic containers for the scallop meats are also required (Poole, 1965; Whittaker (4)).



Year              Large   Medium   Small

1913 (Month ?)    $2.35    $1.85   $1.50
1915 (Jan 23)      2.75     2.25    1.00
1916 (Dec. 16)     3.25     2.75    1.85
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