Technically, I may not be a fish, but I’m still one of the most valuable fisheries in the U.S.! I’m an invertebrate (I don’t have a backbone) in the phylum Mollusca, which also includes snails, sea slugs, octopi, mussels and oysters. I’m what’s known as a bivalve, meaning I have a hinged shell made of calcium carbonate (yes, like the pretty sea shells you see washing up on the beach). I can even use that shell to swim by opening and closing it quickly to move myself. I also use the shell to feed. I’m a filter feeder, so I open my shell to allow water to flow through and use mucus to trap plankton for dinner.
Did You Know?
A lot of scallops are hermaphrodites, meaning we have both male and female sex organs. To reproduce, we released eggs and sperm into the water column where they fertilize.
I’m a major favorite of seafood lovers. My name was even adapted to the cooking term “scalloped,” which meant hot, creamed seafood served in a shell. Now, the phrase is applied more liberally to other foods in a creamy casserole, like scalloped potatoes (yum!). Our populations have varied over the last century due to a mix of habitat degradation and overfishing. Since the 1990s, careful management of this fishery has helped the U.S. population come back strong. The United States has the largest sea scallop fishery in the world, with 56 million pounds of meat worth $546 million harvested in one year alone. Three of the top ports pulling in sea scallops are New Bedford, Massachusetts; Cape May, New Jersey; and Norfolk, Virginia.