The bay scallop, Argopecten irradians, Massachusetts through North Carolina: its biology and the history of its habitats and fisheries.
Subject: Scallops (Natural resources)
Fish industry (Production management)
Fish industry (History)
Fisheries (Production management)
Fisheries (History)
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: Massachusetts; North Carolina Geographic Code: 1U1MA Massachusetts; 1U5NC North Carolina
Accession Number: 195982568
Full Text: Harvesting in Five Major Locations

During the 1907-08 season, the fishery in southern Cape Cod produced 64,000 bushels with 3/4ths of the total from Chatham, Buzzards Bay produced 48,000 bushels, and Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket combined produced 53,000 bushels of bay scallops (Belding, 1910).

Cape Cod Bay

Belding (1910) stated that between Plymouth and Provincetown in Cape Cod Bay, bay scallops could be obtained at Barnstable, Brewster, Wellfleet, and Provincetown, but no extensive fishery was carried on. The chief characteristic of this bay is a great rise and fall of tide, averaging about 10 ft (3 m). Vast areas of flats are exposed, and during winters the scallops die on them. The scallops were gathered by hand from the exposed flats, or by pushers and dip nets in the shallow water. No regular dredging took place.

Since then, only spotty commercial scalloping has taken place. It has never been a substantial fishery. In the fall of 2006 and 2007, the scallop crop was sufficiently large to support a small fishery in Wellfleet and Eastham in eastern Cape Cod Bay. The scallops were located in 5-25 ft (1.5-7.6 m) of water, the beds have some eelgrass, and the water is relatively clear. In Wellfleet, the season opened during the first week of October. Shellfishermen wanted to begin the scalloping season in October rather than in November when most locations begin, so they would have little competition in the market and be assured of high prices. From 2 to 10 boats sought scallops every suitable day. The boats are about 40 ft long with inboard engines and hulls of wood or fiberglass. The daily limit is 10 bu/man or 20 bushels for a boat with two licenses. The scallops are opened in the fishermen's homes (Mankevetch (23)).

Southern Cape Cod

On the south shore of Cape Cod, Belding (1910) described a bay scallop harvesting area about 15 miles (25 km) long and 2-3 miles (3.5-5 km) wide running from the shore from Hyannis Harbor to Monomoy Island south of Chatham. The conditions were favorable for scallops: the rise and fall of tide (about 2 ft; 60 cm) was small, water circulation was good, and the sand bottom and water depth were suitable. Most of the fishery was conducted on the open coast, but some is in the bays, such as Stage Harbor, Chatham; Lewis Bay, Hyannis; and Osterville Bay, Barnstable. Off Harwich, the grounds in places extend a distance of 2-3 miles from shore. The intervening bottom is sandy with patches of eelgrass. Some scallops were present. Water depths in the offshore grounds ranged from about 10 to 30 ft (3-9 m) with considerable areas about 15 ft (4.5 m) deep. In Chatham, about 2,000 acres of eelgrass flats sheltered by Monomoy Island furnished excellent grounds for bay scallops (Fig. 70). Little information about the fishery in southern Cape Cod was available for this paper, except for some landings data from individual towns. Chatham continued to be the leading producer.

Buzzards Bay

The grounds where bay scallops were harvested in Buzzards Bay included the various coves and harbors along the shores and on grounds farther from shore including those as far as the middle of the bay (Fig. 64). Its bay scallop fishery began in New Bedford in 1870 (Belding, 1910). From 1870-79, it furnished a winter living for about 15 men. From New Bedford, the fishery spread rapidly to the other bay towns. Shanties and fish houses for opening scallops and storing gear for quahoging and finfishing were constructed along the waterfronts in every town; some towns had at least 20 shanties (Anonymous, 1893b). Official health permits were not required in the early years to open scallops in the shanties or at fishermen's houses. Openers used knives with wooden handles, and the "eyes" were put into various types of bowls and second-hand cans that had been washed with clean fresh water. The scallop meats were taken the same night or early the next morning to fish markets (wholesalers) for shipment to markets (Sayles (12)). Shipments to New York City were troublesome on warm days if ice was unavailable. In February 1885, for example, a scallop shipment to New York spoiled enroute (Anonymous, 1885a).


Ryder (1934) described the following bay scalloping scene in Marion on Buzzards Bay, in about 1887: "The men are out dragging, hoping to bring $50,000 into the village during the next few weeks. The boats come in full, night after night, sometimes 80 bushels to a boat as the catch was not limited. The great heaps of the brown shellfish are piled almost filling the small craft. The men in rubber hip boots on the wharf shovel the day's haul into great baskets to hurry into the little shanties where the boys of the village wait to cut deftly from the dark mass, with a quick turn of the knife, the white "eye." After the boats were unloaded, the task remained of cleaning the boats so all may be ready for a start at daybreak next morning. With bucket and broom they clean the deck and sides of the cockpit, corralling every starfish, the deadly enemy of the scallop, peer at the mast and boom, scan the nets of the dredges, for most of these scallop fishermen of the villages are deep sea sailors all with a sense of making everything 'ship shape.'"

Buzzards Bay scallops were scarce for about 7 years between 1900 and 1909. Fishermen attributed the scarcity to predation by large numbers of starfish which they had witnessed (Anonymous, 1909).

The demand for bay scallops grew steadily, more men sought them, and the fishery expanded. Sailing catboats were the most common boat used for harvesting them. In 1915, there may have been only one train/day going westward alongside the Buzzards Bay south shore to New York City, because a 1915 newspaper (Anonymous, 1915e) reported that some boats were on the scallop grounds around midnight, fished by moonlight and returned soon after daybreak with their limits of 10 bu/man, striving to get their scallops opened in time for the morning train. About 100 boats with nearly 200 men were out harvesting scallops.




Scalloping began on Nantucket in 1883 (Belding, 1910). The bay scalloping grounds are in 1) Nantucket Harbor, about 6 miles (9.6 km) long and from 0.5 to 1.7 miles (0.8-2.75 km) wide; 2) Madaket Bay, 2 miles (3.25 km) across; and 3) the shoals that lie just off the north side of Tuckernuck Island (Fig. 75). Scallops sometimes are found in Nantucket Sound just off the north shore of Nantucket Harbor (Renem (11)). Among these areas, Nantucket Harbor produces, by far, the most scallops (Fig. 79, 80). The water depths of the Nantucket scalloping areas range from 2 to 8 ft (0.6-2.4 m). The larvae that have stocked the Tuckemuck shoals may come from adult scallops that were in Madaket Bay (Conant (1)).

Bay scallops initially were harvested on shallow flats where eelgrass grew in Nantucket Harbor. Most of those taken were seed and too small for human consumption, so they were sold for bait to finfishermen who wound the rims of drained and dried scallop guts around their hooks (Coffin (24)). In 1878, men with about 9 teams of horses and wagons were going out on the harbor flats raking scallops. Any scallops big enough to eat were taken in the wagons or in rowboats to fishing shanties to be opened. The larger scallops were present in the deeper waters and were harvested from dories. Two men were in each and both rowed, and they towed two scallop dredges. The dredge bags were made entirely of twine mesh, which required much mending (Andrews, 1990).

Nantucket bay scalloping began on a larger scale using catboats under sail in the late fall of 1879 (Fig. 14). Scallops were opened in shanties and shipped to New York City commission dealers, and eventually about 20 scallop opening houses stood around the edge of Nantucket Harbor until the 1940's. Farmers took the shells, crushed them, and spread them on their fields (Renem (11); Sayles (12)). Several of the buildings used as scallop shanties remain but are now small shops selling tourist items (Fig. 81). The shipping containers were butter tubs made of dovetailed quarter-inch pine boards, and were tight and clean. When harvest restrictions were first imposed in 1901, local authorities allowed fishermen to harvest some scallops after the season closed on March 31st until May 15th, to be sold for $0.25/bu cash to trawler fishermen to use as bait (Andrews, 1990).

In recent decades, the Nantucket bay scalloping fleet has varied in size, following the trend in scallop abundances. In the early 1980's, from 120 to 150 dredging boats began each season; in 2004, the fleet size was about 25 boats, besides 4 or 5 scuba divers (Fig. 82), in Nantucket Harbor, and 5 boats in Madaket Bay (Fig. 83) (Anonymous, 2006). At least half of the boats have a crew of two, the second often being a fisherman's wife or a teenager. To make the fishery more fair for the regular scallop fishermen, Nantucket has reduced the numbers of part-time bay scallopers by ruling that fishermen who want to harvest scallops must purchase their license in March, or 6 months ahead of the season opening, and by raising the license fee to $250 (Coffin (24)).

Nantucket openers of bay scallops currently are paid at the rate of 20% of the price that buyers pay fishermen for the meats. This may be as much as $2.40/lb ($21.60/gal) if the fishermen receive $12/lb for the meats. The scallop opening houses (currently 3 are active) pack the meats in plastic bags, refrigerate them, ship them the next day by refrigerated truck on the ferry to Hyannis, Mass. From there, they go to distant markets, mostly to New York City and fewer to Greater Boston, Mass., and Providence, R.I. Buyers there sell directly to fish markets and restaurants with wholesaler's licenses (Sayles (12)).



Martha's Vineyard

Bay scalloping began on Martha's Vineyard in 1875 (Belding, 1910). The principal scalloping areas on island are (from west to east) Menemsha Pond, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long and 1 mile (1.6 km) wide; Lagoon Pond, 2.2 miles (3.5 km) long and 0.5 miles (0.8 km) wide; Sengecontacket Pond, 2.2 miles (3.5 km) long and 0.3 miles (0.5 km) wide; Katama Bay, 2 miles (3.25 km) long and 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide; Edgartown Harbor, up to 3 miles (5 km) long; and Cape Poge Pond, 2.5 miles (4.0 km) long and 1.1 miles (1.6 km) wide (Fig. 84). The scalloping areas are controlled by 5 towns, each with their own designated waters; as noted, some water bodies are shared between two towns, e.g. Menemsha Pond between Aquinnah and Chilmark, Lagoon Pond between Tisbury and Oak Bluffs, and Sengecontacket Pond between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown.


During the 1990's and 2000's, the quantities of scallops have declined and fewer jobs for scallop fishermen and openers have been available on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. The permanent residents have not felt much of an economic pinch, because alternate jobs have become available, especially in the building and tourist trades, for people who might have been engaged in scalloping. Yet scalloping, commercial and recreational, continues on both islands, and nearly all the available scallops are harvested each year.




From 1980 to 2005, Edgartown (Fig. 85, 86) landed 73% of the island's bay scallops, an average of 13,060 bu/yr as compared with 3,840 bu/yr for the remaining island towns. In 2005, the landings (in bushels) in various towns were: Edgartown, 6,014; Oak Bluffs, 1,674; Vineyard Haven, 2,926; Chilmark, 640, and Aquinnah, 438, for a total of 11,692 (source, various annual town reports).

Recreational Harvesting

Recreational or family harvesting of bay scallops has been a tradition in Massachusetts every fall. It is an enjoyable pastime, with the prize being several meals of delicious bay scallops. All state residents in Massachusetts can obtain a license to harvest bay scallops legally in any bay in the state for their own use during an open season; they cannot sell them. In 1889, the state residents could take as many as 3 bushels of scallops/ day for family use (Anonymous, 1889), but this quantity has since been reduced to one bu/week. For family use, the scallops have been obtained by people wading in the shallows of bays. They use pushers, look-boxes, and scoop nets (Beal (25)).

Wearing waders or wetsuits, the fishermen wade in waters as deep as their chests. Their gear is a look-box, a scoop net, and a wire basket placed in a rubber tube that is towed with a string around their waist. They wade through shallow eelgrass meadows peering down at the bottom and finding scallops among the eelgrass blades and also in clear openings several feet wide. A sunny day is best for spotting them, but some scallops are felt beneath the fishermen's feet. They often remain out for as long as 3 hours trying to obtain the limit. The scallops are opened at home and divided into meal-sized portions, some to be eaten immediately but most are placed in plastic bags and chilled or frozen for later use (Beal (25)). Recreational scallop landings total about 1% of Martha's Vineyard's commercial landings (Town annual reports).

In recent years, recreational scalloping can begin on October 1st, a month ahead of the commercial season, and is allowed until the end of the commercial season, March 1st (Fig. 87, 88), but, in effect, the fishery usually lasts only through October because afterward the water becomes too cold for wading (Beal (25)). Harvesters are required to purchase a license. In the 2000's, the license fee in Edgartown costs $50 for a town resident, and $220 for a nonresident (Searle (26); Bagnall (27)). The license is free for everyone at least 60 years old (Bagnall (27)). In recent years, about 100 recreational fishermen in Nantucket are harvesting on an October weekend: 90% use pushers; no dredging is allowed (Sayles (12)).


Rhode Island

Rhode Island bay scallop landings were first recorded in 1880: 30,000 bushels were tallied (Fig. 89), but the fishery had begun before that. Between 1880 and 1959, the landings over time ranged widely among years, from 300 bushels (1905) to 71,000 bushels (1945) (about 21,000 bu/yr, avg.) (Lyles, 1969). After 1959, the landings have been almost nonexistent, except for 1978, 75,000 bushels; 1979, 23,000 bushels; 1983, 7,400 bushels; and 1984, 4,400 bushels (NMFS landings statistics). The fishery ended in 1985, when a brown tide killed the scallops and also blue mussels. The scallops have since been too scarce to support harvests.

In November, 1877, an anonymous newspaper reporter visited the small village of Scalloptown (on the southwestern shore of Greenwich Bay) (Fig. 90), and wrote the following notes about the bay scallop fishery:

"The scallops were harvested with catboats, about 20 ft (6 m) long. Each towed 4-6 dredges which cost $5 each. The scallopers wore oilskins and used oilskin bibs (Fig. 91). When not in use, the catboats were tied to stakes at least 100 ft (30 m) away from piers and docks. The fishermen got to them in their rowboats, which they tied to the stakes for the day when they got aboard their catboats."

"The scallop packing house had a wooden counter along its entire length on one side. The "cutters," most of whom were girls and some were men, began opening the scallops as soon as they were landed (Fig. 92). They discussed the quantity of scallops brought in and they calculated the number of quarts they might open. They were paid $0.15/gal. The scallop meats were washed and drained, and then boxed or barreled and sent to market. The markets paid the packing houses $0.65/gal for the meats."


In the late 1800's and first two or three decades of the 1900's, the most important bay scallop-producing areas in Rhode Island were Greenwich and Cowesett Bays in the northwestern part of Narragansett Bay; and some scallops were caught in Mt. Hope Bay in its northeastern part. In 1879, about 90 sailing boats, most of which were catboats but also 2-3 sloops and a few sharpies, comprised the scalloping fleet. The large boats towed 6-8 dredges at a time; the smaller ones, 3-5. The fish houses furnished some of the boats, dredges, and other gear to the fishermen (Anonymous, 1877, 1916d; Ingersoll, 1887).


About 100 people, 25-30 of whom were women and girls, opened the scallops. Opening was rarely done on the boats, since it was believed that the discarded scallop "guts" fouled the beds. Some of the shells were sold to Rhode Island oyster growers who used them as cultch for setting oyster larvae. The bulk of the scallops were sold in New York City, the remainder went to Providence and Newport, and towns in Connecticut. Much of the scallop catch in 1878 had to be discarded, due to a lack of markets (Ingersoll, 1887).

In 1914, Rhode Island issued 24 bay scallop licenses, and, in 1915, 65 such licenses that cost $15 each and were good for 4 months, September through December (Anonymous, 1915d). In 1920, 100 scallop licenses were issued. That year, the state reduced the daily limit of scallops/license from 25 to 15 bushels (Anonymous, 1920). But by then, the scallops had become scarce in Greenwich, Cowesett, and Mt. Hope Bays. Most scallops afterward were harvested in the southern areas of the state, particularly in Pt. Judith Pond, which exchanges its waters with those in Block Island Sound through an opening at its south end.

By the 1920's and 1930's, a typical bay scallop boat was a converted catboat, about 23 ft (7 m) long, usually driven by a small gasoline engine and propeller. It towed 6-8 dredges, each limited to a width of 30 in (75 cm) by state law. By the 1940's, the boats had second-hand automobile engines (Manchester (28)). By the 1950's, scallop fishermen were using wooden rowboats, 14-16 ft (4.25-4.9 m) long, with outboard motors. This made it easy for nearly every fisherman and tradesman who owned or could borrow a rowboat to go scalloping; one or two men were in each boat. In addition, small numbers of men "dip-netted" for scallops from rowboats and a few used scuba gear to get them. In the best years, about 600 boats comprised the Rhode Island Bay scalloping fleet (MacKenzie, 1997; Dykstra (29); Ganz (30)). During the lean years of the 1970's and 1980's, the main scalloping area was Pt. Judith Pond (Ganz (30)).



From the 1950's onward, some fishermen set up benches on various shores to open bay scallops, some others opened them on their boats after they docked, while most opened them at their homes or in fish markets. The openers put the scallop meats into most any type of large can, including those that once held salted hams, but eventually everyone used stainless steel cans. The state ruled that the opening had to be done in shops that were sanitary and were approved and licensed. Some fishermen took their whole scallops to fish markets to have them opened by others. Buyers paid the fishermen for the meats after taking out the opening costs (Manchester (28); Dykstra (29)).

Importance of the Fishery

After the 1950's, the relatively small scallop fishery in Rhode Island could be considered as a "frosting-on-the-cake" fishery in the seashore economy. It had the status as a "fun" occupation that brought in some extra money when scallops were abundant in widely scattered years. No one would have gone without the bare necessities of life had there been no scallop fishery (Ganz (30)).



Little has been written about the bay scallop fishery in Connecticut. In 1911 the Fishing Gazette mentioned that a scallop fishery was active in shallow beds between the waters of Rowayton and Norwalk, communities that are about 6 miles (10 km) apart (Fig. 93). No details were provided. Coastal islands protect those shallows during southerly wind storms. Bay scallop shells can now be found in their sediments (Hopp (5)).


Bay scallops were also harvested in eastern Connecticut from the Niantic River eastward along the coastal zone to and including Stonington, about 18-21 miles (29-34 km) to the east. The shallows that scallops inhabited are similarly protected by islands lying off the main coastline. The fishery was active in the Niantic River and in the towns of Noank, Mystic, and Stonington.

Connecticut bay scallop landings were recorded from the late 1800's to the early 1960's. The annual landings were relatively small and spotty until the early 1930's. From 1933 to 1949, the landings averaged about 8,300 bu/yr; the biggest year was 1935, when 48,000 bushels were landed. The largest landings were from 1950 to 1962, when they ranged from 11,000 to 70,000 bu/yr; 25,000 bu/yr, avg.), but afterward the landings declined (Lyles, 1969).

Niantic River

Annual bay scallop production in the Niantic River has fluctuated with changes in eelgrass abundance. The river is a confined area with a narrow opening, about 135 ft (40 m) wide between Niantic Bay and eastern Long Island Sound. Scallops were scarce when the eelgrass was abundant, and vice versa; or the opposite effect of the eelgrass presence in other locations. When eelgrass was abundant in the river, it grew too thickly for scallops and usually inhibited them from attaining commercial densities. After the eelgrass died in the 1930's, scallops were frequently abundant. Where the scallops were present in the river, the scallop zone was mostly 7-8 ft (2.1-2.4 m) deep, about half a mile (800 m) wide, and 4 miles (6.4 km) long. By local decree, people could gather scallops only by dip netting with a limit of 1 bu/man/day. From 1976 to 1987, whenever scallops were generally abundant, about 10-15 fishermen, all using look-boxes and dip nets from small boats, harvested scallops during the week. As many as 50 fishermen harvested on weekends (Daboll (31)). Niantic River scallops currently are scarce.

Stonington Area

In the Stonington area, the bay scallops inhabited protected coves off Fishers Island Sound, where depths were 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4 m). In the 1940's and 1950's, about 25 boats comprised its bay scallop dredging fleet. This fleet was a little larger than those in Mystic and Noank. The boats were rowboats with outboard motors and also 20 ft (6 m) boats with inboard engines taken from old or wrecked automobiles. Some scallops were harvested by fishermen in rowboats using look-boxes and scoop nets. Catches were unlimited in the late 1940's, and each motor boat harvested from 30 to 50 bu/day whenever the scallops were abundant (Madeiros (32)).

Bay scallops were opened in a building on the dock by 10-15 people, some of whom were school children who opened in afternoons after school and on weekends. Some scallops were sold in the shell to a trucker who drove them to Norwalk, Conn., to be opened and sold. It was more profitable for the fishermen to get more scallops to sell in the shell than it was to harvest fewer hours and then spend time opening those they had harvested themselves. Empty shells in barrels were taken by the scallop boats and dumped in the water outside the harbor. Scalloping ended in the Stonington vicinity, when environmentalists stopped them from dredging scallops to protect the eelgrass meadows (Madeiros (32)).

Long Island, N.Y.

The annual bay scallop landings in Long Island, N.Y., were the second largest after Massachusetts among the states (Fig. 94), and, as in the other states, scallop abundances varied widely among years. Landings data are available for 3 early years: In 1891, 69,565 bushels worth $48,340 were landed; in 1898, the landings were 103,063 bushels worth $49,960; and in 1903, they were 169,294 bushels worth $100,607 (Anonymous, 1903a). In 1900, scallops were shipped daily from eastern Long Island to New York City by rail, an average of about 500 gallons from the train depots between Greenport and Jamesport (Anonymous, 1900). Scallops were landed every year thereafter through 1984. From 1938 to the late 1940's, when eelgrass was nearly absent, the lowest landings, an average of 8,800 bushels (range, 3,500-17,800 bushels), were tallied. From 1950 to 1985, during which the eelgrass beds again covered large areas of the scalloping grounds, the average scallop landings were 62,400 bushels (range, 15,500-141,000 bu)/yr. Since the 1985 brown tide episode, the landings have been low, an average of 3,500 bu/yr, but included in this figure is the unusually high landing of 45,200 bushels in 1994; the average without that year is 1,250 bu/yr (Lyles, 1969; NMFS landings statistics). Another brown tide in 1995 killed nearly all the scallops that could have provided a spawning stock for the next generation.

The Scalloping Bays

In the early 1900's, most of Long Island's bay scallops were harvested in Peconic and Gardiners Bays, the remainder in several other bays on Long Island. The others included Oyster Bay Harbor (Flower (33)), Lloyds Harbor, Huntington Bay, Northport Harbor, Great South Bay, Mecox Bay, and Shinnecock Bay (Berglin (34)). Scallops were harvested in Oyster Bay Harbor until the eelgrass die-off in the 1930's, but none have been present since then (Flower (33); White (35)). Scallops are still harvested in some years on the grounds where eelgrass meadows grow on the bay side between Jones Inlet and Fire Island Inlet at the west end of Great South Bay.

The principal bay scalloping grounds are in Little Peconic, Great Peconic, and Gardiners Bays. The expanse of water across this area is about 25 miles (40 km) long and is of varying widths from narrow zones up to 5 miles (Wood, 1907). The three main scalloping areas were 1) Orient-East Marion, 2) Northwest Harbor (Sag Harbor), and 3) Great Peconic Bay and Flanders Bay (Calf Pasture). Scallops inhabited broad bottoms of hard sand, where depths were 4-12 ft (1.2-3.7 m), and in the bay some scallops were also in the drenes (shallow channels) on shallow sand bars, and some were in waters as deep as 25 ft (7.5 m). The tidal range is about 4 ft (1.2 m). The scallop distribution was fairly widespread in the years of good sets and survival of the seed. Scallops were also present in 5-8 ponds, that were 5-10 ft (1.5-3 m) deep, and creeks that bordered the south side of Peconic Bay. The state designated separate town and state waters. Eventually, only town residents could harvest scallops in the waters of their town, but all state residents could harvest in all state waters (Wenczel (21); Morris (36)).


The First Years

Ingersoll (1887) and a Southold, N.Y, newspaper (Anonymous, 1917b) described what may have been the beginning of commercial bay scalloping in Peconic Bay. In 1857, local residents observed a boat from Connecticut harvesting scallops on grounds just northeast of Robbins Island. The next year, the same boat returned to harvest scallops because a demand for scallops had developed in Norwalk, Bridgeport, New Haven, and other Connecticut towns. This time, a citizen in New Suffolk tried shipping to New York City some scallops that he and friends had harvested. He sent 7 gallons of whole scallops in a common nail keg. Fulton Market replied that no one knew what they were, but if he would send some meats they might sell. Accordingly, some were shipped in a box to the city and in a week $3.00 was returned as proceeds from this sale. From then on, some residents in New Suffolk were harvesting and selling scallop meats every year and this tiny community became the bay scalloping center on Long Island. The shucking shanties used to save the guts from the scallops and mix it into compost with seaweed from the beach to make a rich fertilizer for growing corn.

Mather (1896) said that the people of New Suffolk were supported mainly by bay scallops from early September to the first of May. Twenty-six sloops, each operated by two men, one at the tiller and the other at the culling board, along with a few smaller boats harvested the scallops (Fig. 95). About 70 men operated the boats. While dredging for scallops, the crews kept the whelks and starfish to be given to local farms for use as fertilizer. About 30 women, 20 men, and as many as 80 children, who stopped on the way home from school, opened the scallops (Fig. 96). They were paid $0.16/gal for opening large scallops and $0.25/gal for small ones. Shippers received $0.65/gal, and the shells were sold to Connecticut oyster planters for $0.06/bu.

Ingersoll (1887) reported: "The beach at New Suffolk is lined with their (scallop) houses, no less than eleven of them of which are seen within a quarter of a mile's walk along the sands. The largest of these buildings is 30 ft (9 m) long by 20 (6 m) wide. A broad shelf runs along each side, projecting a couple of feet from the walls, and reaching to the waist of a man. Holes are cut in this shelf at regular intervals along its length. Barrels are placed under these holes for the refuse. The scallops are piled up at the back of the shelf spoken of. The openers are generally women, of all ages. Apart from the damp floors and dripping surroundings the work is not hard. Some of the young girls work after being married; come regularly in the season to gain a penny or two for those little extras coveted by all."

Wood (1907) described some additional details about the first years of the Peconic Bay scallop fishery. The fishermen prepared their boats and dredges for scalloping in August, as scouts dredged over the beds to determine where they would find scallops once the season began. About 200 sailing vessels (presumably sloops, catboats, and sharpies), each carrying three men, were engaged in the scallop fishery. During the beginning weeks of a season, the average catch for each boat was about 35 bu/day, but a large percentage was seed scallops. The scallops sold for $1.50-$3.00/gal. Each boat crew earned about $600 for the 1904 season. The scallops had to be brought to shore and opened in time to be shipped on the night train to New York City, because unless shipped at once the scallops could spoil because there was no refrigeration. In the coldest weather, fishermen at times kept scallops frozen in snow banks awaiting a rising market. The total earnings for all the fishermen were $200,000.



In the late 1800's and early 1900's, the state did not impose daily catch limits, and the fishermen caught all the scallops they could in a day, with the best captains taking the most. At the end of a day, the boats sailed to the shores where the scallops were to be opened. The shanties were located just below the tops of the dunes on their inland sides. Crews anchored their boats close to shore and shoveled the scallops into rowboats to get them ashore. Once there, they shoveled them into wheelbarrows and then pushed them to the shanties over planks laid on soft beach sand (Berglin (34)).

Bay scalloping became an important part of the lives of at least a thousand people on Long Island, from a little before 1900 to 1985. Full-time and part-time fishermen harvested them; men, women, and older children opened them; and wholesalers packed and sent them to markets. Most of the active fishermen in the early weeks of good seasons were part-timers: Tradesmen taking leave from their regular jobs and potato farmers. During the 1920's, the scallop fishery in Peconic Bay also provided employment for many former oystermen when the oyster fishery was slumping due to the typhoid scares (Anonymous, 1923; MacKenzie, 1996).

Limiting Daily Harvests

In the early 1900's, New York State eventually clamped limits on daily bay scallop harvests by each fisherman and each boat (Table 5). Scallop fishermen with large boats were incensed at this law, because baymen with a $15 sharpie could harvest as many scallops as those with a $500 sloop or catboat. They believed that the people who were making from $2 to $4 an afternoon opening scallops would be deprived of that employment, because when fewer scallops are taken two men in a boat could do their own opening. The law benefited the scallopers, though, because the limited catch translated into a higher price for scallops, yielding better returns from less labor (Anonymous, 1906).

Selling "Bugs" (Seed)

The Fishing Gazette published several articles about the Long Island fishermen harvesting "bugs" (seed bay scallops) for sale; the largest bugs had "eyes" nearly the size of the adult scallops, and they were acceptable in markets (Fig. 97). Late fall, at least in the years when bugs were abundant, often was termed the "bugging season." If any scallops were large enough to open, most fishermen retained them. Most did not believe that taking bugs reduced the scallops' availability the following year, because there were so many (Bourguignon (15); Berglin (34)) but state officials and some fishermen were opposed to taking them (Anonymous, 1919b). To avoid the law, several fishermen went for bugs at night in various years. In the early 1900's, some irresponsible fishermen were harvesting legal scallops and bugs in 20-50 bushel lots (Bourguignonls), and after opening the largest scallops, they dumped the remainder onto the shell heaps, thus causing a great waste (Anonymous, 1905).

In 1915, the Fishing Gazette (Anonymous, 1915a, b) reported that some baymen were violating the law by taking bugs, but they believed they had to do it or have their families go hungry. They wanted to scallop legally, but said they were forced to violate the law, as they had no other work. A former scallop buyer talking about the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's related that many fishermen caught bugs and did well financially. The state did not bother with the growth line, but the scallops had to be at least 2 in (5 cm) wide. After a while, the fishermen grew tired of measuring and kept the scallops that were nearly legal size (Bourguignon (15)).


Conflicts with Oystermen

Since at least 1900, some Peconic Bay grounds near Robbins Island and in Sag Harbor were held under grants by oyster companies to grow the seed that had set on their Connecticut beds. The companies employed watch boats to keep the scallopers off their grounds. In 1914, an oyster company petitioned the State Shellfish Commissioners to lease 600 acres of grounds off Shelter Island, Peconic Bay, to grow oysters. The petition was denied after the local bay scallop fishermen protested that the grounds were used for harvesting scallops (Anonymous, 1914).

The 1940's to 1985

As noted, scalloping became good again, though annually variable, beginning in the early 1950's. The commercial scalloping season typically opened in state waters 2-3 weeks before town waters were opened. At the beginning of seasons, the fishermen harvested only in state waters, leaving the town waters alone temporarily. In the 1970's and 1980's, during the first few weeks of seasons in which the scallops were abundant, from 300 to 400 boats, mostly driven by outboard motors (Fig. 98) were harvesting scallops: about 100 in Northwest Harbor, 100 in Orient, and 100 in Flanders Bay (Calf Pasture) at the far western end, and some in other parts of the Peconic Bay system. About one-fourth of the 400-500 fishermen were full-time fishermen, while the remainder consisted of part-timers. Harvests were best for about a month, and nearly every fisherman got a full limit. When 2 men were in a boat, 20 bushels could be harvested in 3-4 hours. In succeeding weeks, harvests of 5 bu/person/day were closer to the norm. In many years, ice covered the beds for about a month and harvesting was impossible (Bourguignon (15); Wenczel (21); Berglin (34)).

During the 1970's and until 1984, New York's scallop landings averaged about 54,000 bu/yr, but there were the usual annual wide fluctuations in bay scallop availability. A few fish markets and also individual fishermen sold their scallops to local restaurants. One buyer froze scallops in gallon cans and sold them to restaurants in the summer (Morris (36)).

Gear and Use

Before the 1950's, a state ruling stipulated that any boats dredging for bay scallops had to use sails for propulsion or else be rowed or pulled by hand (anchor roading). Motor boats could not be used. In addition, the state consistently has ruled that the dredges had to be retrieved by hand-hauling, even today. During the 1940's, some fishermen began using outboard motors to harvest more efficiently. They rigged up a phony square sail and put a burlap bag over the motor to hide the exhaust fumes and fool the conservation officers on shore into believing they were using only sail power (Berglin (34)).

When the bay scallops became abundant again during the 1950's, the state changed its ruling on motors and allowed the scallopers to use them to run their boats. Since then, most of the scallop boats have been wood or fiberglass outboard motor boats about 15-20 ft (4.6-6 m) long, though some used 33-36 ft (10-11 m) lobster-style boats. Most small boats towed 4 dredges, but some could tow 6-8 dredges with and without outriggers. Some men brought their wives along to cull so they could obtain a double limit: 20 four-peck bushels of scallops (Wenczel (21); Berglin (34)).


Some local potato farmers harvested bay scallops by anchor roading. The farmers purchased second-hand rowboats, dredges, ropes, and anchors. They had their employees, i.e. workers who lived on their farms, harvest and open the scallops. The farmers sold the scallops meats and paid the men their usual weekly wages (Berglin (34)).

In the creeks, some fishermen picked up bay scallops while wading in waters 1.3-2.3 ft (0.4-0.7 m) deep when tides were low. It was legal to wade for scallops commercially on Sundays but dredging was not allowed; the fishermen attended church on Saturday nights and harvested scallops on Sundays. Wearing waders and holding a look-box, scoop net, and towing a floating basket, they walked slowly through the shallow water, looked at the bottom through the box, and gathered scallops one or two at a time. In the 1970's and early 1980's, 10-12 men did this. Each could get the state limit of 10 bushels in as little as 3 hours at the beginning of good seasons, but after the first month, when the scallops were scarcer, good catches were about 5 bu/day. Several fishermen harvested scallops by snorkeling. They gathered the scallops with their gloved hands (Wenczel (21); Berglin (34)).

During the first few weeks in a productive year, the fishermen could return to shore with their 10-bu limit of bay scallops as early as 10 a.m. Some "cheaters" went out twice in a day, usually in an area separate from the first, to get a second 10-bu limit. The fishermen could land their scallops at any location they desired, so it was easy to dodge the three shellfish officers and their two or three helpers on duty in this large scalloping area.

Opening Scallops

Fishermen opened their bay scallops in numerous shanties distributed in groups along the shores of Peconic and Gardiners bays, and also in large fish houses, or at their homes. In good seasons, the fishermen commonly had some difficulty getting all their scallops opened, because opening 10-20 bags of scallops could be a greater labor chore than harvesting them. At times, fishermen had to take days off from harvesting to catch up with the opening. Many fishermen hired three or four people, including their children and sisters, school teachers, and housewives, to open their scallops (Fig. 99, 100). The fish houses were said to have had "half the high school" opening for them. But at the tail end of the seasons, fishermen opened most of their own scallops (Morris (36)). In the late 1970's, the openers were earning $1.00/lb of bay scallop meats, and by the 1990's they were paid $1.25-$1.30/lb. Some openers saved the guts of the scallops for sale to tackle shops that resold them to sport fishermen for bait.

Bay scallop shells were piled next to the shanties and at the edges of the fishermen's yards and were eventually spread on beaches, roads, and driveways. Oyster companies took some scallop shells (until at least 1968) to their Connecticut seed grounds as cultch. The scallop shells are excellent cultch because they are clean, oyster spat set on them, and they fragment readily when oyster seed are attached. Some companies brought the Peconic Bay scallop shells that had caught an oyster set in Connecticut back to the bay for the oysters to grow to market size.

Large-Scale Scalloping Ends

The scarcity of scallops after 1985 has created a huge void for the communities in eastern Long Island. The money and the activity that the industry had been generating were gone. Each fall since, weekend day-tourists driving from New York City and western Long Island to eastern Long Island have missed having bay scallops as a treat to bring back home along with apples, apple cider, potatoes, jellies, jams, wines, and wreathes they used to purchase from roadside stands and wineries.

Displaced bay scallop fishermen have saved their dredges in sheds and cellars (Fig. 101). If the scallops in former abundances were to return, fishermen would be back on the grounds in their former numbers to harvest them (Bourguignon (15)).

The State Shell

All U.S. states have adopted important plants or animals to represent them. Pearls are depicted on New York's State seal, arms, and flag, and on 1 August 1988, New York adopted the bay scallop as its official state shell. In signing the bill, Governor Mario M. Cuomo said: "This bill designating the bay scallop as the official New York State shell is intended to recognize the importance of scallops and other marine resources in our state. The designation of the bay scallop as the state shell is largely a symbolic and ceremonial act. Nevertheless, I take it as a clear expression of support for the programs already underway to support the bay scallop fishery in New York.

"The value of New York State's bay scallop harvest ranged from $488,976 to $1,840,071 from 1975 to 1984 and averaged 20% of the national production of bay scallops for that period. However, the bay scallop harvest, which is primarily in the Peconic Bay, has steadily decreased since that time. In 1987, New York's harvest was valued at less than $3,000 and its 373 pounds constituted less than 1% of the national bay scallop production." (37)

A Scalloping Trip On Peconic Bay

On 31 December 2005, I went along on a bay scallop harvesting trip with a fisherman in Peconic Bay, N.Y. The fisherman, about 48 years old, was a fulltime shellfisherman. His principal income came from potting knobbed whelks, Busycon carica, during the warm months. He sought bay scallops during the colder months, and, though they have been relatively scarce, he and a few others were making meager earnings scalloping. During the first 10 years of his scalloping, beginning in about 1975, he usually was able to harvest all winter to the end of March. During the last month of those seasons, only a handful of fishermen were still going, and each took 3-4 bu/day. He lived in Greenport but docked his boat in a creek 15 miles (24 km) to the west.


No one was in the creek when I arrived, but at least 20 sport boats were moored at the piers and secured for the winter with canvas and plastic sheets wrapped over their decks and cockpits. The fisherman's boat was 25 ft (7.6 m) long and 8.5 ft (2.6 m) wide. He had purchased the boat in Southampton, eastern Long Island, but only as a hull. He added a small cabin, installed a 175-hp diesel engine, and coated the hull with fiberglass. He used shore ranges to locate the scallop beds and a GPS system to locate specific dredging locations. His boat had 12 dredges, 6 along each of its rails, and they were towed in a line, one directly behind the other unless the boat towed them in a circle. The first dredge caught mostly codium and each of the 5 dredges behind it caught the scallops. The culling board across the boat's stern held the dredges.



We left the dock at 8:17 a.m. and headed for the scallop bed about 1.25 miles (2 km) southwest of the creek and about 0.3 miles (0.5 km) from shore. The bed appeared to be about 0.75 miles (1 km) long and 0.3 miles (0.5 km) wide. The water depth was about 4-5 ft (1.2-1.5 m) deep at high tide.

When we arrived, two other boats were dredging scallops but no others were seen all day (Fig. 102). The wind, blowing lightly at 5 knots from the southwest, produced ripples on the slightly green water surface. The wind ceased by 10 a.m. leaving the surface flat for the remainder of the day. The air temperature was 33[degrees]F (0.5[degrees]C); the water temperature was 37[degrees]F (2.8[degrees]C).

At 8:31 a.m. the fisherman began tossing over the dredges (Fig. 103); the 12th dredge was tossed 6 minutes later. We towed for about 10 minutes and then began to haul in and empty the dredges, one at a time (Fig. 104). I helped him pull in 4 of the dredges after each drift. We culled the bay scallops from the shack (codium, a red-brown alga, and scallop shells), and pushed it off both ends of the culling board (Fig. 105). At 9:13 a.m. we began hauling the dredges for the second time. Each dredge throughout the day had 3-10 scallops (average, about 6) each time they were hauled. Several slippersnails and a few jingle shells, Anomia simplex, were attached to most scallops (Fig. 106).

I asked the fisherman whether he was going to try harvesting on another ground that day. He thought an area across the bay might have some scallops, and he wanted to try it in 1-2 weeks, but now he did not want to show the other two fishermen where it was. I asked what were the effects of codium on the fishery and he answered "It sometimes fills the dredges and they are so heavy it keeps the novice fishermen from scalloping."


We stopped dredging at 2:31 p.m. We had made 11 drifts and had 2.5 bushels of bay scallops. On the way to the creek, the fisherman explained that the 1985 brown tide kill of scallops was devastating to the fishing community, especially the fishermen and also the equipment suppliers, scallop openers, and truckers who had delivered the scallops to markets. It was a shock. There had been a huge set of scallops in 1984. The brown tide missed a few spots, and, in the 1985-86 season, some scallops were present to harvest.

Later in the day, the fisherman opened the scallops in his cellar and then sold them to a fish dealer. He had about 15 pounds of scallop "eyes." At $16/lb, they would bring him about $240.

My impressions of the environment and scallops were: 1) neither eelgrass nor starfish were present, 2) codium was fairly abundant, 3) market-sized scallops were scarce, and 4) only 10 "bug" scallops were observed.

New Jersey

The bay scallop landings in New Jersey were recorded first in 1956, when 52,300 bushels were taken in Barnegat Bay (Fig. 107). The scallops were distributed within large but scattered eelgrass meadows spaced along a 12-mile (20 km) stretch near Barnegat Inlet, from Laurel Harbor, about 4 miles (7 km) north of the inlet, to Manahawkin Bay, about 8 miles (13 km) to its south. The water depths were 3-6 ft (0.9-1.8 m) (Camburn (38)). Scallops were harvested in various annual quantities until 1968, when the landings ended almost for good. The peak landings after 1956 were in the 3-year period 1962-64, and they averaged 56,400 bu/yr. After 1968, landings were reported in only 1973 (10,000 bushels) and 1974 (2,700 bushels) (Ford, 1997).

The state regulated the bay scallop fishery, with an open season from 1 November to 15 April, a daily limit of 10 bu/day/person, and 20 bushels for a two-person boat. The scallops had to be opened into clean plastic or stainless steel containers; salad bowls were commonly used (Camburn (38)).

About 100-150 boats were bay scalloping in the most productive years. Crewed by 1-2 people, some of whom were the fishermens' wives, most boats were square-ended garveys about 22 ft (6.7 m) long and propelled by outboard motors. Each towed 4 dredges. The remainder were 14-16 ft (4.3-4.9 m) rowboats, also outboard-motor powered. The dredges were made of iron rods and had a rigid bag (Fig. 108). Some seed scallops went through the spaces between the rods as they were being towed. During other seasons, many of the scallop fishermen sought northern quahogs and blue crabs in Barnegat Bay, Raritan Bay, and elsewhere (Camburn (38); Apel (39)).

Fishermen placed the scallops in coffee-bean bags, about one bu/bag, loaded them onto small trucks, and drove them to opening houses or their homes, though some were taken to Long Island, N.Y., to be opened. The largest bay scallops were found near Barnegat Inlet, and they yielded about 6 pounds of "eyes"/bu. Scallops farther away were smaller and yielded about 4.5-5 lb/bu (Camburn (38)).





Scallops were opened by the fishermen, their wives, and people they hired. The scallop season brought the family more money than it could earn at any other part of the year, so families worked hard while the scallops lasted in the beds. While husbands were harvesting, their wives were home opening the scallops caught the previous day, and then both opened in the evenings. One wife related that she had suffered two miscarriages by lifting the heavy bags of scallops onto the opening benches. Some neighbors, who had full-time day jobs, opened scallops for the fishermen during weekday evenings. The scallop meats were sold to buyers who shipped them in 5-gallon, stainless-steel cans to Philadelphia and New York (Camburn (38)).


Bay scallops, A. i. concentricus, were once harvested along the eastern shore of the Delmarva Peninsula (Fig. 109). Lyles (1969) listed bay scallop landings in Virginia in only 6 years. This was between 1920 and 1932. They were lowest in 1920 at 19,000 bushels and highest in 1930 at about 300,000 bushels. The scallops were present in eelgrass meadows, and an estimated 200-300 boats may have been dredging for them. Bay scallop landings ended in 1931-32, when the eelgrass disappeared, and the scallops have never returned in commercial quantities (Terry (40)).


North Carolina

North Carolina ranked third in annual bay scallop, A. i. concentricus, landings among the states, trailing Massachusetts but almost equal to New York. From 1898 to 1931, its landings averaged 90,000 bu/yr (range, 2,600-280,000 bushels). From the mid 1930's to late 1940's, the years when eelgrass was scarce and temperatures were warmer, the landings averaged 10,000 bu/yr (Lyles, 1969). From the beginning of the 1950's through the 1980's, the landings averaged 43,000 bu/yr (range, 7,500-127,000 bushels) (NMFS landings statistics). The landings declined after the mid 1990's and have been negligible during the 2000's (NMFS landings statistics) (Fig. 110). The decline was a consequence of a red tide event, caused by the dinoflagellate Ptychodiscus brevis, in 1987, several hurricanes in the 1990's, and predation by cownose rays. The North Carolina bay scallops are especially susceptible to hurricanes due to their frequent occurrences in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. coast. Hurricanes can cause direct physical damage to the scallops and their habitats, result in freshwater runoff, and damage waterfront property (Peterson et al., 2001; Myers et al., 2007; N.C. Fisheries Management Plan--Bay Scallops, 2007).


Bogue and Core Sounds Bay scallops have been harvested in Bogue and Core Sounds, between the towns of Atlantic and Swansboro, and some were taken farther south inside New River Inlet and farther north along the inside of the Barrier Islands that form the east side of Pamlico Sound (Fig. 111, 112). Bogue and Core Sounds are about 26-32 miles (45-55 km) long; Bogue Sound is as much as 2 miles (3.5 km) wide and Core Sound as much as 3 miles (5 km) wide. Their average depth is 4-5 ft (1.2-1.5 m). Few areas are more than 6 ft (1.8 m) deep. Large areas, perhaps 80% in Bogue and Core Sounds that have been inhabited by bay scallops, are shallow enough for fishermen to wade and harvest scallops when tides are low (Smith (2)). The bottom sediments consist of firm, "sticky" mud, and a thin mud layer collects on the upper shell of scallops (Fig. 113) (This contrasts with habitats in southern New England and New York, where the beds consist of sand and the scallops usually do not have sediments on them). The North Carolina scallops have inhabited the areas of eelgrass meadows and, to a much lesser extent, clusters of oyster shells. The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries suggests that the structure of oyster shells is suitable for the scallop settlement, but is not as good as eelgrass.

Origin of the Fishery

The town of Beaufort, located between Bogue and Core sounds, developed as a summer resort. North Carolina bay scalloping began as a summer fishery with sales to the summer people, and, in about 1860, the summer harvesting on the nearby shallows and sales of scallops began. The scallops thereafter were raked and scooped, and some scallops apparently were taken with dredges towed from rowboats. The scallops were peddled around the town for $0.10/quart; the people hired to open them were paid at a rate of $0.10-0.12/gal (Gutsell, 1929). In the 1870's, shipments of bay scallop meats began to out-of-state markets, mainly to New York City, Boston, possibly Philadelphia, and other locations. The scallop meats were packed in barrels (with ice?) and shipped northward by railroad from Morehead City, then a railhead. In 1876-77, several thousand gallons were shipped. At this time, fishermen were paid $0.40-0.45/gal for the meats, and the openers were paid $0.10-0.125/gal (Gutsell, 1929).

The bay scallop fishery developed quickly after 1912 or 1913, apparently because gasoline engines were being installed to propel boats, which then could dredge for scallops. From 1917 to 1924, nearly 700 fishermen/year were harvesting scallops. During 1922-24, about 2,000 men and women were employed as harvesters, openers, packers, icemen, and deliverymen. In 1917-18, 54,000 gallons of scallop meats were shipped. In 1927-28, if a fisherman and his family could not open all their scallops, they hired people to open the remainder and paid them $0.50/gal. Fishermen delivered their bay scallop meats to the dealers by boat from various opening places around Bogue and Core Sounds. By the 1920's, small trucks became available to deliver them. The dealers washed and drained the meats and placed them in tin containers that held a gallon. The cans were packed with chipped ice in barrels, fish boxes, or half boxes for shipment to northern cities (Gutsell, 1929).



In 1915, the state established the Fishery Commission Board with responsibility for fisheries regulation and law enforcement, and in July, 1917, it began to regulate scallop harvesting. The scallop season was from 1 December to 15 April, all scallops under 2 in (5 cm) from hinge to "mouth" had to be returned to the bottom, and it was forbidden to soak scallop meats or to sell soaked meats (Gutsell, 1929). Nearly all the commercial crop consists of scallops 12-20 months old (Gutsell, 1929) and they are nearly full-sized (Fig. 114). The beginning of the season was later advanced to January. In the 1980's, the bay scallop season was open from about 1 January to late May (Smith (2)).

The relationship between meat weights and gondal development has guided the State Division of Marine Fisheries in establishing the bay scallop season. The timing of the season allows for the completion of spawning and an increase in meat size to obtain the highest yield. During fall, the weights of the adductor muscles are at their lowest; this is when gondal development is high. When the scallops gradually finalize their spawning in October, the muscles begin to increase and have their maximum weights from February to May (Fig. 115) (Spitsbergen, 1979; Kellogg and Spitsbergen, 1983).



The current regulations (N.C. Fisheries Management Plan--Bay Scallops, 2007) for bay scallops are as follows:

1. The scallop season is open briefly in December to allow the fishermen to earn some money for Christmas. This December opening lasts no more than 4 days.

2. The regular season is open between the second Monday in January and last Friday in May.

3. Between 1 August and 15 September, scalloping is allowed by hand harvesting only.

4. It is unlawful to take scallops between sunset and sunrise.

5. It is unlawful to take scallops with dredges weighing more than 50 pounds or equipped with teeth.

6. The daily limit is 10 bushels of scallops/person and 20 bu/two-person boat.

7. It is unlawful to soak scallops.

The scallops are harvested from January through March with some taken in April (Fig. 116).

For many years, there was no formal limit on the daily catches that each fishermen or boat could take, but the state eventually did restrict the harvest to extend the scalloping season. The first ruling was 20 bu/person/day, and later it was 40 bu/two-person boat/day.

In different years, the State Division of Marine Fisheries allowed harvesting of bay scallops only on certain days. For instance in 1983, scallops could be taken by dredges on Monday and Wednesday and with scoops and rakes on Thursday and Friday in Bogue Sound, Core Sound, and New River. In January 1984, it allowed dredging and hand-harvesting (scooping and raking) only on Monday and Wednesday, but then in February 1984, it allowed both types of harvesting on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and only by scooping and raking on Thursday and Friday. Commercial harvesting is not allowed on weekends. A typical sequence of activity during a scalloping week that consisted of Monday and Wednesday harvesting by dredging was as follows (Smith (2)):

1) On Monday, a fisherman and his partner harvested 40 bushels of bay scallops with their dredging boat, and landed them on a shore in the early afternoon (Fig. 117). They and their families with hired help opened the scallops until about 10 p.m., usually having 5-6 gallons of meats by then. At least 300 people in the state were hired to open scallops. They included the fishermen, men and women of senior age, housewives, and school children. Many fishermen had their families work as openers: wives, sisters, and children. Some fishermen ordered their sons to open a gallon after school before they could play with their friends.

2) On Tuesday, fishermen and helpers spent all day opening the remainder of Monday's catch, and by early evening they had finished opening the 40 bushels and they trucked them to a local buyer; 40 bushels of bay scallops yielded about 25 gallons of meats (Fig. 118).

3) On Wednesday, they harvested another 40 bushels, and they opened the scallops into the night.

4) On Thursday, they spend all day and evening opening and selling the scallops.

5) On Friday, they repaired the netting on their dredges, scouted around the beds with rakes to find where the largest scallops were located, and got ready to harvest again on the following Monday (Fig. 119, 120). Two or three state shellfish officers enforce the regulations.


Most scallops were harvested by dredging (Fig. 121). During the 1960's-1980's, Bogue and Core Sounds had about 300 bay scallopers during the first part of an open season. About 75% were part-timers. If someone wanted to go scalloping and did not have the equipment, he could purchase an old boat, motor, and dredges or borrow them for 2-3 weeks (Smith (2)).


The fishermen dredged for scallops during high tides in 2-4 ft (60-120 cm) of water. The dredges have caused little damage to the submerged aquatic vegetation (mostly eelgrass) because they glide over the substrate surface as they collect scallops, but propellers can scour the bottom as the boats pull the dredges. To minimize harm to the grasses, the state currently allows only scooping and raking early in the season, and, when the scallops are scarcer, dredging later in the season, and, to minimize the scouring, beginning the dredging each day during high tide (Smith (2)).




From 15 to 40 boats often crowded individual eelgrass meadows, even the smallest, where the scallops were abundant (Fig. 122, 123, 124, 125). They were able to harvest in their shallowest sections for 2-3 hours before the tide fell. Each boat could change its forward direction "on-a-dime" to avoid another boat due to the shortness of their dredge lines and location of their dredges close to the stern (Smith (2)).

Bay scallops were available so consistently each year during most of the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's that the regular fishermen considered their crops as "money in the bank," providing them with financial security during winters. In many of the good years some boys left high school permanently to go scalloping and then remained as commercial fishermen (Smith (2)).

The fishermen liked periods when it rained because the salinity fell and the scallop adductor muscles swelled with lower salinity water, yielding more volume from their harvests. After the rains passed, the water became saltier and the meats shrunk back to normal size. Bay scallops also yielded more pounds of meat from a bushel measure late in a season, when their numbers had been thinned out by harvesting and they could grow larger muscles. North Carolina scallops usually run 70-80 meats/lb while the largest run about 50-60 meats/lb. The poorest meats run 100/lb (Smith (2)). The standard conversions used in the North Carolina landings database are: 50 pounds shell weight/bushel; 5 pounds of meat/bu; and 8 pounds of meat/gal (South Atlantic Commercial Monthly Landings Statistics and Detailed Shrimp Program User Documentation, 1992).

Raking and Scooping

The daily harvest of a scalloper, who raked or scooped, was far less than when he dredged (Fig. 126). The first rakes used may have been common potato diggers with a screen attached to retain the scallops. The rakers and scoopers wore hip boots or waders and walked slowly over the flats gathering scallops and putting them in large wash tubs, which they towed with a line attached to their waists. In taking each step, the fishermen's foot usually became slightly stuck in the mud and had to be pulled free, resulting in the fishermen becoming tired by the end of the day. In calm water, a fisherman with a scoop could harvest abundant scallops at a rate as high as 5 bu/hr. When the tubs were partially full, the scallops were emptied into skiffs or bunts that were anchored nearby (Gutsell, 1929).

As seasons wore on and scallop harvests dwindled, the fishermen gradually quit for the season as it was not worthwhile to continue. The cutoff quantity was about 3 bu/day. By the end of most seasons, from 10 to 15 scallopers remained harvesting. Some of the others had switched to digging quahogs. But near the end of those occasional seasons when the scallops were especially plentiful, the fishermen became tired of scalloping: They were "burned out" and so were the openers. Besides, in April, it was becoming warmer (Smith (2)).

When the scallop season ended, the fishermen, noted for being opportunistic, switched to other fisheries. They potted blue crabs during April, then from May 1st until early September they netted shrimp. In September, they caught fish (spot, Leiostomus xanthurus; mullet, Mugul curema; and sea trout, Cynosion nebulosos) with haul seines on the Atlantic Ocean beaches (Smith (2)).

Opening and Washing Scallops

During the 1920's and 1930's, most bay scallops were opened out-of-doors under shelters, and also in garages and sheds, but later most were opened in 4-5 scallop houses in the town of Salter Path (Gutsell, 1929), and the remainder at the fishermen's homes. The scallop houses were constructed following the state's sanitary rules. The largest scallop house had about 50 opening berths with holes through the floor to discharge the shells and guts onto the beach below, and one or two had 7-8 berths each. The houses charged each fisherman $2-3/day for the space he occupied while opening his scallops (Smith (2)).






Standing or sitting in front of benches holding piles of freshly-caught scallops and using scallop knives, which were hand-made and ground from butter knives into the proper size and shape in the earliest years and factory-made in later years, the openers flipped the meats into 1-gallon steel or plastic cans (Fig. 127). While doing so, they commonly are several scallops along with some home-made biscuits. The shucked meats had some mud mixed with them, because mud was forced into scallops that were dredged. Packers had to wash the meats with fresh water. This removed flavorful juices from the surfaces of the meats, which then absorbed some fresh water, and the flavor of the meats was weakened (scallop meats in Massachusetts are not rinsed in fresh water). Packers were not allowed to hold the meats in fresh water long enough to absorb much water. The meats were packed in 1-gallon plastic cans, which were then set in boxes with crushed ice. Refrigerated trucks took the meats to northern markets (Smith (2)) (Table 6).

During the late 1970's and early 1980's, a scallop opening house purchased two machines for opening calico scallops, Argopecten gibbus, harvested in oceanic beds (Blake and Shumway (2006) report on the distribution of calico scallops in oceanic waters). Each machine could open 60-70 gallons of calico scallop meats/hr. The machines are successful when used for scallop muscles that are uniform in size, as are the calico's, but the size of bay scallop meats varies so much that the machines could not be used to open them: Too many muscles fell out of the set range of the machines, were chewed up, and had to be discarded (Smith (2)).


As time passed during the early 1900's, the bay scallop dealers began to grade the meats into 3 sizes, paying the fishermen most for the largest. In 1928, the dealers paid $2.25-2.50/gal for large scallops, $1.50-2.00/gal for larger mediums, and $1.00-1.20/gal for medium scallops. The net earnings for each fisherman ranged from $4 to $15/day, after the expenses of opening and the wear and tear of their harvesting equipment were taken out (Gutsell, 1929). The practice of size-grading eventually ended.

Bay scallops were also eaten by local residents. They were prepared in three principal ways: 1) fried in a pan with a skim of oil on its bottom; 2) as the basis of soup; and 3) as a scallop fritter ("fridder") which contains scallop "hearts" chopped into pieces, flour, and eggs. They are mixed together to form a fridder and dropped into hot fat to be cooked (Smith (2)).

Recreational Fishery

In North Carolina, a recreational harvest of bay scallops is allowed at the same time as the commercial season, but recreational harvests may also be made on weekends. A license is not required. A state ruling limits the daily harvest to one-half a bu/person not to exceed one bu/boat (N.C. Fishery Management Plan--Bay Scallops, 2007).

Scarce Scallops Recently

Since the red tide of 1987-88, bay scalloping has nearly ended. Recruitments of juvenile scallops have been much smaller than they were, and fishermen have observed that cownose rays in large schools, that measure 50-100 ft (15-30 m) or more in width, enter Bogue and Core Sounds in some years and eat most of the scallops (Smith (2)) (Fig. 128, 129) ( /overfishing-sharkswiped-out-north-carolina-bay-scallopfishery).

Fishermen try for scallops in the formerly productive grounds at the beginning of each season, but do not find enough to sell. The loss of this fishery has been keenly felt, and some fishermen have had financial difficulty because unemployment insurance has not been available. The former rows of scallop opening houses appear like sections of ghost towns. Local residents feel that part of their heritage is gone (Smith (2)).



The North Carolina scalloping bays have become crowded with recreational sail and motor boats during the warm summer months. During good weather, from 1,500 to 2,000 boats on weekends and 500 boats during the week occupy Bogue and Core Sounds (Moore (41)).

Goals to Restore and Sustain Harvests

The State Division of Marine Fisheries has published a management plan titled, The 2007 North Carolina Fishery Management Plan--Bay Scallops, 2007, to preserve the bay scallop resource and promote the scallop fishery. The goals were:

1. Develop an objective management program that restores and maintains sustainable harvest.

2. Promote the protection, restoration, and enhancement of habitats and water quality necessary for enhancing the fishery resource.

3. Identify, enhance, and initiate studies to increase our understanding of bay scallop biology, predator/ prey relationships, and population dynamics.

4. Investigate methods for protecting and enhancing the spawning stocks.

5. Address social and economic concerns of all user groups.

6. Promote public awareness regarding the status and management of the North Carolina bay scallop stocks.



Habitat Changes and Reduced Landings Along the Northeast U.S East Coast

In 1985, the stocks and consequent landings of the northern bay scallops crashed to extremely low amounts in nearly all its formerly productive bays, and the scallops have remained scarce. In locations, such as southern Cape Cod, Buzzards Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and eastern Long Island, bay scallop landings have been extremely small or do not exist (Fig. 130). Before this, from about 1950 to mid 1980's, their landings had been relatively large at times.

The main cause of the crash was an eruption of the picoplankter, Aureococcus anophagefferans. In Buzzards Bay and the bays along southern Cape Cod, the brown tide in 1985 was not evident to the local people who viewed the waters casually, but the scallop landings there similarly crashed in that year. Possibly, thin, but unrecognized, blooms of A. anophagefferans may have been responsible. Coincident with the scarcity of scallops, eelgrass meadows have become scarcer in the bays. More brown tides followed in some years through 1995, but none have occurred after that. Nevertheless, the scallop landings have remained small. The agent that caused the crash apparently missed the waters around Falmouth and on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket in Mass. and on the bay side of the few inlets in southwestern Long Island, N.Y., because bay scallop harvests have continued.

Since 1985, the specific factors that have changed in the scallops' habitats to prevent the scallops from becoming abundant again are imperfectly known. The obvious changes have been warming waters and a changing climate and increases in human habitation on the shores and watersheds, with consequent nitrogen pollution, and also during summers a large amount of recreational boating in bays. These factors have potential effects upon physiology of the scallops at all their life stages, phytoplankton, and predation. The harvesting of the bay scallops, by itself, seems to have had little effect on the recruitment and abundances of the harvestable stocks.

Effects of Brown and Red Tides

In 1985, a dense bloom of the brown picoplankter, Aureococcus anophagefferans, developed across almost the entire extent of Peconic Bay in Long Island and Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island and endured for several weeks. The bloom was referred to as "brown tide" due to its color and dense concentration in waters that had been relatively clear. The brown tides in Peconic Bay and Narragansett Bay resulted in the deaths of nearly all bay scallops, mussels, Mytilus edulis, oysters, and eelgrass (Bricelj et al., 1987; Cosper et al., 1987; Bricelj and Kuenstner, 1989; Nuzzi and Waters, 1989; Bricelj and Lonsdale, 1997). Some bay scallops may have spawned, but their larvae could not use A. anophagefferans for food efficiently (Gallagher et al., 1989). No one is sure what the environmental conditions were when the brown tides occurred, but Smayda and Borkman (2000), referring to the 1985 brown tide in Narragansett Bay, reported that it developed during a period of drought, low river flow, and high sunlight radiance.

In 1981-85, landings of bay scallops on Long Island, N.Y., had averaged 54,500 bu/yr, but between 1985 and 2004, they averaged 3,570 bu/yr. Included are the landings 45,200 bushels in 1994. Aside from that year, the landings for the remaining 18 years averaged 1,250 bu/yr (NMFS landings statistics). The former scalloping grounds in Peconic Bay have remained nearly barren of eelgrass meadows. Rhode Island has not had commercial bay scallop landings since 1985.

In North Carolina, the eruption in abundance of the dinoflagellate, Ptychodiscus brevis, produced an intense poisonous "red tide" in the scalloping bays in 1987-88. About one-fifth of the adult scallops died and the survivors apparently had much reduced spawning. In both 1987 and 1988, the numbers of scallop recruits were about one-fiftieth of the pre-red tide densities (Summerson and Peterson, 1990). Bay scallops have been scarce in North Carolina ever since, in part due to hurricanes and predation by cownose rays (Peterson et al., 2001).


Environmental Changes After 1985-95

Since 1985-95, bay scallops have remained relatively scarce in most of the bays. The full range of changes in their habitats that have prevented them from becoming abundant again are not fully understood. One reason that bay scallops have become scarce is partly due to their apparent fragility and sensitivity to environmental conditions. In hatchery environments, scallop juveniles are more difficult to produce than the juveniles of oysters and northern quahogs. Their eggs do not fertilize as readily, their larvae will grow only when fed the best available phytoplankton, their mortalities are higher when the larvae are to metamorphose and set, and the juveniles may die if handled similarly to oysters and northern quahogs. Furthermore, each mature scallop produces fewer eggs than either of the others (Zatila (42)). It is highly probable that even slight changes that have degraded their habitats would lower their abundances.


There have not been any broad estuarine studies that have considered the bay scallop as their focal point, but reviews of several findings and other observations show that their habitats have changed in ways that would be expected to adversely affect bay scallops:

1) The water temperatures have become warmer especially during winter and the climate has changed;

2) the composition of phytoplankton species and the timing of their blooms have changed;

3) predation may have increased, since decapods are more abundant;

4) eelgrass is less abundant;

5) pollution, especially nitrogen levels, has increased; and

6) some physical changes have occurred.


In addition, there have been increases in human habitation adjacent to the shores and watersheds, bringing with it an increase in nitrogen pollution and in recreational boating in the bays.

An increase in water temperature can affect the physiology of scallops and also the phytoplankton species, predation rate, and eelgrass survivorship. Regarding phytoplankton, diatoms (Skeletenema costatum is the dominant species) have become less abundant in the late spring-early summer and more abundant in the summer and fall than before, and chlorophyll levels have declined sharply at least in Narragansett Bay (Li and Smayda, 1998; Smayda et al., 2004). This shift in diatoms may be the reason for a shift in the pattern of the bay scallop reproduction. There have been fewer seed found in the early summer and some seed is found in the late summer-early fall, in eastern Long Island, N.Y, Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard. There used to be fewer seed in the fall. Does this decline in chlorophyll mean that other phytoplankton species have declined and there is less food for scallops? Oviatt (2004) and Wood et al. (2008) have shown that decapods (crabs and perhaps shrimp), that are predators of bay scallops, have become more abundant. Losses of eelgrass (Hughes et al., 2002; Anonymous, 2006; Fonseca and Uhrin, In press) have had a great affect on the habitat and the bay scallops (fewer scallops exist where it has disappeared). The effects of pollutants, such as nitrogen and PAH's, directly on the scallops have not been determined, but the presence of nitrogen in the warmer waters has caused eelgrass abundance to decline (Bintz et al., 2003). Some bay inlets have changed by becoming smaller or larger in a few locations. Harvesting bay scallops seems to have had little effect on the recruitment and abundances of the harvestable stocks.

Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket: Two Areas of Continuous Production

An overview of the recent history of bay scallop landings and environments on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket may provide more insights into the causes of bay scallop scarcities in the northeastern U.S. bays. Martha's Vineyard lies 5 miles (8 km) and Nantucket lies about 20 miles (32 km) south of Cape Cod. The two islands are 15 miles (24 km) apart. On their north sides, the islands are bordered by the waters of Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds, and on their south sides by the Atlantic Ocean. Since the waters of the islands' bays exchange directly with these waters, especially those of the two sounds, they likely are strongly influenced by their temperatures and they probably receive phytoplankton from them. Thus the air temperatures and consequent water temperatures of the islands' bays may not be warmed and cooled as much by the land masses of Cape Cod and Massachusetts, as are the other bays in this state, yet since they are broad, shallow, and have small openings to Nantucket Sound, they may be warmer than they once were. Besides those factors: 1) a larger number of permanent and summer people reside on them, 2) recreational boating increased in some of their harbors during summers, 3) the extent of eelgrass meadows has declined slightly, and 4) at least in Edgartown, the openings of two bays have changed substantially.


Between 1980 and 2000, permanent residents on Martha's Vineyard increased from 8,879 to 14,901 (, or 40% more, while on Nantucket they increased from 3,774 to 9,520, 60.4% more. (43) The summer tourist population has increased sharply also. But the islands' watersheds are relatively small and the total build-up of homes on the watersheds probably is much smaller than on those on the mainland.

The islands have been spared three types of changes that the other bay scalloping locations have suffered: 1) either no brown or red tides, or at least none that were recognized; 2) probably less water pollution from nutrients and consequent eutrophication of waters and other pollutants; and 3) apparently a far smaller decline in the extent of eelgrass meadows than elsewhere.

On Martha's Vineyard, bay scallop landings were about 40% as high during 1990-2005 (avg. 10,869 bu/yr) as they were in 1975-89 (avg. 28,674 bu/yr). Some of this decline has resulted from the closure of the southern opening in Katama Bay, and in the loss of eelgrass in Sengecontacket Pond (Fig. 131). The southern opening of Katama Bay reopened after being closed for about 25 years in April, 2007 (Fig. 132). On Nantucket, the landings were about 30% as high in 1990-2005 (avg. 15,400 bu/yr) as they were in 1978-89 (avg. 54,200 bu/yr). Cape Poge Pond (9%) on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Harbor and Madaket Bay (22%), taken together, currently produce about 30% of the commercial bay scallops landed along the entire East and Gulf Coasts of the United States (town annual reports, and NMFS landings statistics).

Cape Poge Pond, Nantucket Harbor, and Madaket Bay

Descriptions of the environments in Cape Poge Pond, Nantucket Harbor, and Madaket Bay may provide further insights regarding the decline in other areas. They did not seem to be impacted substantially by an increase in the number of people inhabiting their shores, a large number of boats, pollution, eutrophication, and losses of eelgrass, and the sizes of their openings to Nantucket Sound waters have not changed.

Scallops are distributed in the northern one-half to three-fifths of Cape Poge Pond, where depths are 5-9 ft (1.5-3 m), the bottom sediments consist of firm sand and eelgrass covers about 50% of the bottom. The southern part of the pond, at least near its center, is deeper (12 ft or about 4 m), and it has a muddy bottom and no eelgrass. From 1991 to 2004, Cape Poge Pond (4,415 bu/yr, avg.) produced 88% of Edgartown's bay scallops (5,025 bu/yr, avg.) and 57% of Martha's Vineyard's total (7,754 bu/yr, avg.). During that time, the landings from Cape Poge varied among years but there was no trend upward or downward (Fig. 133). Separate landings data from Cape Poge Pond were not tallied earlier than 1991, so there is no record of whether the earlier landings were higher (various town annual reports).


The shoreline of Cape Poge Pond and its narrow watershed have always been nearly clear of housing, in part because the area is rather remote and construction of new houses is not allowed. Summer recreational boating is negligible on the pond, and overnight anchoring of boats is not allowed, as part of an effort to protect the pond's environment. Moreover, there are no obvious sources of pollution. The pond has several species of finfish, crabs, and shrimp (Fig. 134), that might prey on scallops but no starfish.

Nantucket does not maintain separate records of bay scallop landings for each of its three harvesting areas: Nantucket Harbor, Madaket Bay, and the Tuckernuck Shoals. Some of the decline in overall Nantucket landings is a result of the large dropoff in harvests from the Tuckernuck Shoals probably because the eelgrass has mostly disappeared, but some has resulted from a decline of unknown magnitude in the other two areas (Conant (1)).

The quality of the environments in Nantucket Harbor and Madaket Bay appears to be fairly good for scallops. The waters in the harbor may be degraded a little by 1) the presence of a large number of recreational boats that anchor in the west end of the harbor near the town during the summer, and 2) a small increase in the numbers of homes that have been constructed along its south shore bringing with it a potential for causing eutrophication. Eelgrass meadows cover 50-60% of the harbor and nearly all of Madaket Bay. The loss of eelgrass between 1995 and 2001 is estimated to be only about 10% in Nantucket Harbor and 5% in Madaket Bay (Anonymous, 2006). Nantucket Harbor does not have any starfish, but various species of finfish, crabs, and shrimp, that might prey on bay scallops are present.

Environmental Protection on the Two Islands

Karney (2000) described how, in the late 1980's and early 1990's, neighborhood pond associations have formed on Martha's Vineyard with the goal of preserving the island's natural environments and shellfish resources. All groups have been effective in funding studies of water quality in the local waters. Whenever the data collected showed signs of pollution, the groups have implemented some corrective measures, and they were responsible for installing free stations to pumpout sewage from boats. Through newsletters and annual reports, the members are kept informed of ongoing projects and steps they can take to ensure good water quality. Due in part to their vigilance, 98.8% of the island's 175,000 acres of waters are approved for harvesting shellfish, based upon coliform bacteria counts.


Similarly, the people on Nantucket try to preserve the island's waters and undeveloped land by opposing any threatening developments. An environmental conservation report (Anonymous, 2006) describes the purpose, scope, and authority of the Nantucket and Madaket Harbors action plan: "The plan presents the community's goals, objectives and recommendations for guiding public and private use of the land and water of its harbor areas and establishes an implementation program to achieve the desired outcomes."

Each Martha's Vineyard town takes actions to aid its bay scallop fisheries. One is to contribute financial support to the Martha's Vineyard Shellfish Group, Inc., which operates a bivalve hatchery on Lagoon Pond in Vineyard Haven (Fig. 135, 136). In return, the Shellfish Group produces juvenile scallops, northern quahogs, and softshell clams for the shellfish officers of individual towns to grow in bags (Fig. 137) and then spread in their bays and deploy in their floating spawner trays (Gaines (44)). Besides dealing with hatchery seed, the shellfish officers also transplant some wild seed to locations where the bottoms are safer or provide better conditions for scallop growth. The poor locations are the grounds outside the ponds and where scallops are overcrowded or exposed to storms on shallow flats. Their other actions also include trapping green crabs and planting eelgrass.



In contrast to the bays of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, the bays elsewhere in Massachusetts and in Rhode Island and eastern Long Island may be affected by higher concentrations of nutrients, which can stimulate the growth of blooms of some phytoplankton species that may not be foods for the bay scallops, and perhaps toxic chemicals. Some locations also have much less eelgrass than they had. The increase in boating in the various harbors probably has some negative effect on the scallops (Moore (45)).




Attempts to Restore Atlantic Coast Bay Scallop Fisheries

Some Restoration Efforts

The principal actions to increase the sizes of bay scallop populations have been to plant seed and adult scallops and eelgrass in the bays (Arnold et al., 2005, provides a more extensive account of bay scallop restoration actions). The efforts have been made in every east coast state that has had a bay scallop fishery: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. They include activities by the states, counties, towns, fishermen's associations, and university groups, but most have been modest in size. Though the scallops have not increased to their former abundances anywhere, the declines in landings might have been steeper without the restoration efforts. The restoration of former eelgrass meadows has been only partially successful. Most areas where eelgrass has died out since the 1980's have remained barren (See Fonseca and Uhrin, In press).

Bay scallops have been placed in the bays in at least three ways.

1) Adult scallops are held in trays to spawn and produce scallop larvae for the bays. The trays measure 6-10 ft x 3 ft (2-3 m x 1 m) and usually float on the water, but some are laid on the bottom. Each contains 50-100 mature scallops, and individual trays are placed at considerable distances from one another. The scallops in floating trays are easier to maintain than scallops in trays resting on the bottom. But the scallops in surface trays are subjected to a wider range of temperatures and are also disturbed by surface waves.

2) Hatchery-reared seed are grown initially in bags to a length of about 1.5 in (40 mm) and then spread on the bottoms that used to produce scallops. The seed eventually would produce sperm and eggs and also be available for harvesting after growth to legal size. Some seed have had genetic "tags" (a unique color mark) on their shells, so management officials can determine whether the scallops that fishermen harvest are actually hatchery-reared scallops. The survival of the scallops has not been measured. This method involves thousands of scallops.

3) Scallop larvae are reared in hatcheries and released in bays when at the pediveliger (ready-to-set) larval stage. This method can involve millions of scallops. No one has determined the percentage of pediveligers that set or the survival of the juveniles.


The Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County Marine Program, Riverhead, Long Island, N.Y, listed some observations and recommendations for planting bay scallops in ways to minimize the losses they had encountered (Smith (46)):

1) Plant large scallops. Make sure they are over 1.4 in (35 mm) long, best over 40 mm, because smaller scallops may be lost to predation, or are widely dispersed. The success will be better if 500,000 scallops at a size of 1.4-1.6 in (35-40 mm) are planted rather than 1 million scallops at 0.8-1.1 in (20-27 mm).

2) Overwintering can be a problem because many scallops die or disappear. Put the scallops in eelgrass meadows or in headwaters protected from northwest winds. Free planting on the bottom can mean large losses from predation and shifting sediments. One scallop planting had a 30% survival overwinter; the scallop density fell from 8 to 3/[m.sup.2].

3) Scallops can be held best in Nesteer trays (47), cages, or lantern nets. Lantern nets are difficult to open and close, and some locations in the nets are inconvenient to clean. When used in shallow areas in winter, algae has to be scrubbed from them every few weeks.

4) Spread scallops at a density of 5-7/[m.sup.2]. Denser plantings attract more predaceous crabs.

Another enhancement method used on a pilot scale has been to place meshed monofilament bags on scallop beds. The bags are a bushel or two in size, and filled with coarse-mesh monofilament screening. Scallop larvae can set and grow in the bags, and they are protected from predators. The bags later are opened to release the juvenile scallops onto the beds. In practice, scallop recruitment into the bags has been highly variable by location and year. Some bags have not collected any scallops, whereas others have as many as 1,500 juveniles (15-20 mm long)/bag. Whenever bags were placed out too early (before the scallops set), each has collected hundreds of juvenile mud crabs and few or no scallops (Sherman (9)).

From about 1975 to 1985, the State of Rhode Island, under the direction of the Department of Environmental Management, attempted to reestablish bay scallop populations by placing seed scallops in the state's coastal ponds. Its personnel obtained scallops, about 0.5 in (12 mm) in diameter, from hatcheries, and put 5 bushels in each of Winnapaug, Quonochontaug, Ninigret, Charlestown, and Point Judith ponds. The seed was planted in the ponds' southwest corners, so afternoon southwest winds would blow the surface waters and hopefully scallop larvae across them. The seed grew and eventually spawned. Light sets of scallop seed were found, but few survived. The project ended when the 1985 brown tide killed the scallops (Ganz (30)). Eelgrass has been planted in some areas where meadows once grew in Rhode Island with moderate success, following the recommendations of Fonseca et al. (1998).

Super-sized Planting

The Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program and Long Island University are undertaking a bay scallop restoration in Peconic Bay that will involve holding large numbers of spawners in two areas for four consecutive years. The purpose is to provide huge spawning stocks so large numbers of seed scallops will be produced. The idea is to see whether large numbers of seed scallops after they grow to maturity and spawn will produce another large amount of seed, thereby restoring the original size of the scallop stock. Some seed will be scattered over bottoms, but most will be held in suspended Nesteer nets that are placed in at least 5 long rows; the nets in each row are close together to enhance to possibility of egg fertilization. One site will have 500,000 spawners and the other 100,000 spawners. The scallops will possess a unique genetic makeup that will enable the project managers to determine whether the scallops later found in the bay were actually progeny of the program's scallops. This will be done in two former scalloping areas, but unfortunately they are nearly devoid of eelgrass.

The recovery effort began in 2005 (Davis, 2005). Few seed resulted from the spawners in 2005 and 2006, but the set on the bottom in 2007 was from 8 to 80 fold denser/unit area near the sanctuary with 500,000 spawners than in the other former scalloping areas some distance away (Pickerell, 2008). Skeptics believe that such a program may be only partially successful unless the eelgrass meadows are restored ahead of time (Toy, 2004), but restoration of eelgrass meadows is difficult to achieve because the meadows might not grow abundantly in the bay in its current environmental condition.

Temporarily Suspend Harvesting?

A plan often suggested for restoring northern bay scallops is to suspend commercial harvesting for a year or two so the beds and seed scallops will not be disturbed. This probably would not be successful, because near the beginnings of scalloping seasons in Massachusetts and New York the scalloping beds are checked for the presence of commercial quantities of scallops by a few boat crews for a day or two. When only small quantities are present no further dredging continues, so the beds are little disturbed by the scallopers until the following season.

A Management Suggestion

Bay scallop spawning sanctuaries could be redesigned. In areas where scallops used to be present and the eelgrass has disappeared, artificial eelgrass could be installed to hold mature scallops. Mats of artificial eelgrass, perhaps 15 ft square (4.5 by 4.5 m), could be secured to the bottom in several places within selected bays. The spawning of the scallops might be better and the fertilization rate of the eggs would likely be higher than they would be on plain bottom (artificial eelgrass suggestion by V. G. Burrell, Jr., Marine Resources Institute, South Carolina Dep. Natural Resources, Charleston).

Suggested Future Studies

Several studies can be suggested to help gain additional information about the factors that control the abundances of bay scallops. A multi-year field study could be made to determine the survival rate and the causes of mortality of bay scallops, sampling at least every two weeks because the changes might be rapid. The study would begin when their larvae first settle onto substrates and continue until the scallops attain market size 18-30 months later. This could be accomplished in various types of habitats, as was done with the oyster in Long Island Sound by MacKenzie (1981). The answers to the following questions could provide further useful information. After being collected, managers would know whether any actions could be taken to improve habitat conditions of the scallops and other marine life in the bays.

1) Have the species of phytoplankton that bay scallop sedentary stages and larvae use for food changed during the past 20 or so years to their detriment?

2) What are the habitat conditions for scallop juveniles that set in the late summer and fall, including the condition of the eelgrass? In May-June, the eelgrass blades are short-lived and the juvenile scallops are adapted to this by detaching from blades that are cast off and then reattaching to new blades. How do they adapt to eelgrass that might have a different mode of growth in the fall? How does the predation pressure on juvenile scallops that set in September-October compare with that in June-July?

3) Bay scallops are eaten by crabs and fishes as described by various authors, but the descriptions of this predation usually are of scallops partially grown, already settled on the bottom, and at least several weeks old. Large numbers of other bivalve species are eaten by predators during the first weeks after they settle out of the plankton. The species include northern quahogs (MacKenzie, 1977), oysters (MacKenzie, 1981), surfclams, Spisula solidissima (MacKenzie et al.,1985), and softshell clams (MacKenzie and McLaughlin, 2000). Aside from the knowledge that mud crabs feed on tiny scallops attached to eelgrass blades (Pohle et al., 1991), do predators such as shrimp, small fishes, and other types of crabs prey on bay scallops when they are 0.2-10 mm long and still attached to eelgrass blades?

4) Fishermen and shellfish officers observe large numbers of scallop seed in certain locations at times, but a few months later they have disappeared; moreover, they do not seem to be present in other places. What happens to them?

5) Have some bay scallop abundances become too small to produce large enough sets of scallops to restore them to their previous sizes? Probably not, because some scallops have nearly always been able to survive and, when the conditions are "right," rebound to high abundances. In the 1950's through the mid 1980's, large sets of seed scallops often have occurred from what seemed to be small numbers of adults (this assessment of population size is based upon poor harvests by fishermen).

Under laboratory conditions, the toxicity of the pollutants, PAH's and MTBE's that are toxic (Dockum (48)), and also nitrates could be tested on various life stages of scallops.


Many people contributed to this research and writing project. The following librarians obtained historical materials from newspapers and documents in Massachusetts: Lynda Ames Byrne, Wareham Free Library (The Boston Globe); Debbie Charpentier, the Millicent Library, Fairhaven (The Fairhaven Star); and Marie Henke, Nantucket Historical Association. The staff of the New York Public Library recovered many stored volumes of the Fishing Gazette for my use in their reading room. Charlie Bradley sent photographs and historical texts from the historical museum in Marion, Mass. The constables of the Massachusetts Shellfish Officers Association freely provided useful information while I attended six of their quarterly meetings in various towns in their state. Interviews with Paul Bagnall, Debra Barnes, David Berube, Rob Coad, Jennifer Francis, Warren Gaines, Tina Moore, Trish Murphy, David Relyea, Charles Sayles, William Sayles, Gary Sherman, Ted J. Smayda, Neil Smith, Peter Wenczel, David Whittaker, Brinkley Willis, and Joseph Zahtila provided useful information and guidance. Others who contributed verbal information are listed in the personal communications. Debra Barnes, Dery Bennett, Victor G. Burrell, Jr., Frank Csulak, Dexter S. Haven, Willis L. Hobart, Mark Homer, Robert N. Reid, Linda L. Stehlik, and D. Whittaker provided reviews of earlier drafts. Tom Finneran, Donna Johnson, and Annette Kalbach helped prepare the figures.

Literature Cited

Adamson, B. A. 1982. Seasonal variation of carbon uptake and translocation by eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) in Great South Bay, New York. Masters thesis, State Univ. N.Y and Stony Brook, 95 p.

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(1) Conant, K. L. Biologist, Nantucket Marine and Coastal Resources Department, Personal commun., 2006.

(2) Smith, N. Shellfisherman, Salter Path, N.C., Personal commun., 2004.

(3) Rivara, G. Biologist, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Southold, Long Island, N.Y., Personal commun., 2006.

(4) Whittaker, D. Biologist, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, Pocasset, Mass., Personal commun., 2006.

(5) Hopp, D. Shellfisherman, Norwalk, Conn., Personal commun., 2006.

(6) Palmer, A. Shellfish officer (ret.), town of Westport, Mass., Personal commun., 2006.

(7) Reynolds, J. Shellfisherman, Bourne, Mass., Personal commun., 2006.

(8) Willis, B. Shellfisherman, Atlantic Beach, N.C., Personal commun., 2004.

(9) Sherman, G. Shellfish officer, Westport, Mass., Personal commun., 2006.

(10) Pierce, B. Shellfisherman (retired), Westport, Mass., Personal commun., 2006.

(11) Reinemo, K. Shellfisherman, Nantucket, Mass., Personal commun., 2006.

(12) Sayles, C. Shellfish and fish dealer, Nantucket, Mass., Personal commun., 2005.

(13) Gaines, D. Shellfisherman, Edgartown, Mass., Personal commun., 1951.

(14) Flanders, D. Shellfisherman, Menemsha, Mass., Personal commun., 2006.

(15) Bourguignon, R. Shellfisherman and dealer, Flanders, Long Island, N.Y., Personal commun., 2006.

(16) No documentation was available that described how people initiated and developed the process used to open scallops, or when it was discovered that the muscle is tasty and sweet and became a fishery product. The guts (rims) have nearly always been discarded presumably because large sections of them are brown and nearly black, even though they are tasty and undoubtedly nutritious. The design of the bay scallop knife probably was formed by grinding down a kitchen knife to make it efficient for opening scallops; eventually one or more factories made them.

(17) Lane, W. Shellfisherman, Quogue, Long Island, N.Y, Personal commun., 2006.

(18) Poole, E. Shellfisherman, Chilmark, Mass., Personal commun., 2001.

(19) Mello Silva Jeffers, G. Housewife, Edgartown, Mass., Personal commun., 2005.

(20) Warncke, D. Shellfish officer, Bourne, Mass., Personal commun., 2005.

(21) Wenczel, P. Shellfisherman, Greenport, Long Island, N.Y., Personal commun., 2006.

(22) Campbell, B. F. Shellfisherman, West Tisbury, Mass., Personal commun., 2006.

(23) Mankevetch, J. Assistant shellfish officer, Wellfleet, Mass., Personal commun., 2007.

(24) Coffin, E. W. Shellfisherman, Nantucket, Mass., Personal commun., 2006.

(25) Beal, K. Fishery Biologist (ret.), NMFS, NOAA, Gloucester, Mass., Personal commun., 2006.

(26) Searle, D. Shellfish officer and shellfishermen, Vineyard Haven, Mass., Personal commun., 2006.

(27) Bagnall, P Shellfish officer, Edgartown, Mass., Personal commun., 2006.

(28) Manchester, F. Shellfish dealer (ret.), Manchester Sea Foods, Tiverton, R.I., Personal commun., 1992.

(29) Dykstra, J. Shellfisherman, Kingston, R.I., Personal commun., 1991.

(30) Ganz, A. Department of Environmental Management, Division of Fish and Wildlife, (ret.), Personal commun., 2006.

(31) Daboll, R. River Commission, Niantic, Conn., Personal commun., 1992.

(32) Madeiros, A. Shellfisherman, Stonington, Conn., Personal commun., 2006.

(33) Flower, F. Shellfish dealer, Oyster Bay, N.Y., Personal commun., 2006.

(34) Berglin, J. Shellfisherman, Long Island, N.Y., Personal commun., 2006.

(35) white, G. Shellfisherman (ret.), Stratford, Conn., Personal commun., 2005.

(36) Morris, J. Shellfish dealer, Quogue, Long Island, N.Y., Personal commun., 2006.


(38) Camburn, G. W. Shellfisherman, Barnegat, N.J., Personal commun., 2006.

(39) Apel, J. Fisherman, (ret.), Belford, N.J., Personal commun., 2006.

(40) Terry, N. Owner, Terry Oyster Company, Willis Wharf, Va., Personal commun., 2006.

(41) Moore, J. U.S. Coast Guard Station, Fort Macon, Cape Hatteras, N.C., Personal commun., 2006.

(42) Zatila, J., F. M. Flower and Sons, Oyster Bay, N.Y, 2007.


(44) Gaines, W. Shellfish Officer, Edgartown, Mass., Personal commun.

(45) Moore, S. Shellfish officer, Chatham, Mass., 2007.

(46) Smith, C. Cornell Cooperative Ext., Riverhead, Long Island, N.1., Personal commun., 2006.

(47) Mention of trade names or commercial firms in this paper does not imply endorsement by the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA.

(48) Dockum, B. Chemist, James J. Howard Mar. Res. Lab., NEFSC, Highlands, N.J., 2007.

Clyde L. MacKenzie, Jr. is with the James J. Howard Laboratory, Northeast Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, 74 Magruder Road, Highlands, NJ 07732.
Table 1.--Percentage by weight of identified shell samples
in Indian middens on Martha's Vineyard (Ritchie, 1969).

Period                         Quahog    Oyster      clam

Late Archaic (2070-2270 BC)      82        11          5
Transitional                     60        18          6
Early Woodland (430-590 BC)      20        34         14
Middle Woodland (100-400 AD)     32        16         16
Late Woodland (1150-1570 AD)     38         8         12

                                 Bay     Slipper
Period                         scallop    snail

Late Archaic (2070-2270 BC)       2         1
Transitional                     12         2
Early Woodland (430-590 BC)      32         1
Middle Woodland (100-400 AD)     35         3
Late Woodland (1150-1570 AD)     43         5

Table 2.--Bay scallop landings in bushels (avg./time
period) from four towns or islands in Massachusetts.
Westport borders on Buzzards Bay, Chatham is on
Cape Cod, while Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket are
separate islands. The data are in six 5-yr periods from
1976 to 2005 (from local town annual reports).

Period      Westport   Chatham   Vineyard   Nantucket

1976-80        6,800    33,200     23,800      63,300
1981-85       13,750    25,500     34,300      66,100
1986-90          200       700     24,900      28,500
1991-95          100       500      7,900      14,500
1996-2000        780       300      6,200       8,800
2001-2005         70       400      9,600      12,500

Table 3.--Massachusetts laws pertaining to the harvests of bay

Section 1. It shall be unlawful to take from the flats or waters
of the state seed scallops, or to sell or offer for sale,
or have in possession such scallops so taken. For the purposes of
this act an adult scallop shall be a scallop with a well-defined
annual growth line. Scallops taken from the tide waters of the
commonwealth shall be culled out when taken, and all scallops
besides adult scallops so taken shall immediately be returned alive
to tide water which is at least 3 ft (0.9 m) deep at low water, but
the provisions of this section shall not apply to scallops besides
adult scallops unavoidably taken; provided that the number taken at
any one time does not exceed 5 % of the total catch after being
culled as herein provided. All scallops taken in accordance with
the provisions of this act shall be landed ashore in the shell. A
seed scallop has a bright, thin, slightly curved shell, with no
foreign growth adherent, the shell having no sharply defined growth
line, and the animal being less than one year old.

Section 2. No person shall take scallops between the first day of
April and the first day of October from the flats or waters of the
Commonwealth, or buy or sell or have in possession scallops so
taken; but the provisions of this section shall not apply to the
taking of scallops for bait in the waters adjacent to the town of
Nantucket, from the first day of April to the 15th day of May,
inclusive, nor shall they prohibit any person at any time from
taking scallops for food for his own personal or family use.

Section 3. No person shall take more than 10 bushels of scallops
including shells in any one day. (1)

Section 4. Whoever violates any provisions of this act shall be
punished by a fine not exceeding $25. Possession of seed scallops,
except as otherwise provided in section 1, shall be prima facie
evidence that such scallops were taken contrary to law.

(1) In the late 1880's, Massachusetts had limited the daily harvest
of bay scallops to 15 bu/fisherman (Anonymous, 1889b); the limit
was reduced to 10 bu/man/day in 1910.

Table 4.--The number of scallop boats in the towns of
Massachusetts, 1907-08 season (Belding, 1910).

Area and town           Boats   Landings (bushels)

Buzzards Bay
  New Bedford              20                  930
  Fairhaven                50                1,730
  Mattapoisett             19                1,010
  Marion                   16                  770
  Wareham                  36                1,730
  Bourne                   30                1,600
Cape Cod
  Barnstable               23                2,035
  Yarmouth                 15               10,640
  Dennis                    9                3,924
  Harwich                   7                2,890
  Chatham                  35               46,040
Martha's Vineyard
  Aquinnah (Gay Head)       8                4,000
  Menemsha Tisbury
  Oak Bluffs
  Edgartown                26               22,610
Nantucket                  47               26,930

Table 5.--New York laws pertaining to the harvests of
bay scallops.

1. Separate state and town waters are designated. All
fishermen can harvest bay scallops in designated
state waters, but only residents of their towns can
harvest them in their town waters.

2. Dredges will have a maximum width of 36 in.

3. Scallop dredges have to be retrieved by hand. Hauling
by power was not allowed as it is in Massachusetts.

4. The daily limit of scallops was 10 bu/man (the official
bushel was 4 pecks); 20 bu/boat with 2 licensed

5. The minimum width of a scallop that can be taken has
been 2.25 in (5.8 cm). New York State has a size law
for bay scallops and they must have an annual ring.
This requirement for 2.25 in and an annual ring is new.
In the past, scallops had to be 2.25 in wide or have an
annual ring. By mid-November, a large portion of the
seed had grown to legal size.

6. The state used to open the season on the first Monday
in September, but the date was moved down to the
third Monday in September. The scallop season ends
on March 31st. The opening of the bay scallop season
has been delayed even further from the first Monday in
October to the current opening date of the first Monday
in November.

7. No dredging on Sundays; only picking-up is allowed.

8. Only sail could be used to propel boats for scallop
dredging until about 1950.

Table 6.--Average commercial landings of bay scallops/
yr, 2001-05, Atlantic and Gulf Coasts (Data from
Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (Mass
DMF), local town reports, and NMFS Statistics and Economics
Division, Silver Spring, Md.).

                                      % total
Location                    Bushels   landings    Source

  Cape Cod Bay               17,000       24.0   Mass DMF
  Cape Cod                    6,120        8.7   Mass DMF
  Buzzards Bay               19,500       27.6   Mass DMF
  Martha's Vineyard (MV)     10,940       15.5   Mass DMF
  Nantucket (Nan)            15,400       21.8   Mass DMF
New York                        537        0.8   NMFS
North Carolina                1,200        1.7   NMFS
All others along Atlantic
  and Gulf Coasts                 0        0     NMFS
National total              70, 697

Figure 112.--Average percentage of total bay scallop landings
by water body for three time periods, 1972-1981, 1982-1993,
and 1994-2004 (N.C. Fisheries Management Plan--Bay Scallops, 2007).

                     1972-1981   1982-1993   1994-2004

Other                  11.0         4.8         2.2
Bogue Sound            52.7        36.7        23.6
Core Sound             33.0        48.2        73.7
North R./Back Sound     3.2         5.0         0.5
Pamlico Sound                       5.3         0.0

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 121--Proportion of landings
by gear types in the North Carolina
bay scallop fishery, 1994-2004 (N.C.
Fisheries Management Plan--Bay
Scallops, 2007).

Scallop scoop           9%
Other                   1%
By hand                 7%
Hand rakes              8%
Bay scallop dredge     75%

Note: Table made from pie chart.
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