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Scallops North American fisheries

Our scallops – from abundant North American fisheries to your plate 2 minutes

  Sep 10, 2019

Ask any chef and they’ll agree there’s something rather special about Atlantic sea scallops (Latin name: Placopecten magellanicus). With their soft, fleshy texture, delicate flavour and generous size, they are highly prized by seafood lovers all over the world. They’re even widely appreciated by people who aren’t particularly fond of fish.

Slightly sweet with a mild, briny saltiness, this protein-packed seafood is a lot easier to prepare and cook than most other shellfish – turning deliciously tender and buttery in just a few minutes. Being low fat and a good source of key minerals and vitamins, they can also make a meaningful contribution to a healthy diet.

All of the Atlantic scallops that Pittman Seafoods supplies to its customers are certified according to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) sustainability standard. Most of these are selected from fisheries in the United States, which is one of the world’s leading producers of the species.

There, the most abundant fisheries are found in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, from Newfoundland to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and the best news of all is that with harvests currently at near-record levels, there is consistent availability of these amazing wild-caught, high-demand products for consumers to savour.


Scallops have two convexly ridged or “scalloped” shells. These shells are hinged at one end, which is why scallops are known as “bivalve” molluscs, like oysters and mussels. The edible portion is the white adductor muscle that opens and closes the shells and is widely called the “nut”. The reproductive glands known as “coral” are also edible, but the popularity of these vary greatly from market to market.

While there are hundreds of species of scallops worldwide, the United States is essentially home to two commercial varieties: sea scallops, which have a lifespan of 20 years, a large diameter and are found on sand and gravel beds in deep, cold ocean waters; and bay scallops, which are much smaller and caught in shallower waters, bays and estuaries along the east coast.

Sea scallops are graded by the number of units or scallops per pound, such as under-10 or under-20/30, while there are usually 80 to 120 bay scallops per pound. A serving size of 100 grams would typically comprise of four to five large sea scallops, compared to 15 to 20 bay scallops.


Although the US scallop fishing season officially starts on 1 April each year, scallops may be caught throughout the calendar, provided the stringent restrictions are fully observed. According to the latest stock assessment, the species is well managed and not subject to overfishing.

In fact, the fishing effort has been reduced and areas where scallops can be harvested are rotated to maximise scallop yields and protect beds of young scallops as they grow. As such, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the US wild-caught Atlantic sea scallop “is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under US regulations”.

Furthermore, NOAA’s latest data finds that the harvest topped 58.2 million pounds (26,399 tonnes) last year, which was the highest total since 2011 and the fifth-highest according to federal statistics that go back to 1945. With demand increasing, markets remaining strong, and prices continuing to hold steady, scallops are also the country’s fifth most valuable seafood product overall.


Pittman Seafoods specialises in the supply of individually quick-frozen (IQF) whole scallops. These are sourced from a leading US east coast producer who also supplies fresh products to the discerning local market.

Once caught, the scallop meat is quickly removed from the shell and stored on ice ahead of being transferred from the fishing vessel to the processing plant. There, they are flash-frozen in freezing tunnels and automatically packed for distribution. The IQF process maintains the high-quality of the product by not allowing large ice crystals to form in the animals’ cell structure.

Also, since each scallop is individually frozen, particles do not cohere, and the final product is not frozen into a solid block.

Throughout these procedures, random samples are taken for quality tests. These ensure that our customers will be fully satisfied with the products that they receive from us, and that end-consumers can enjoy servings of delicious sea scallops that are at their very best all year round.