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 backward. 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. But the United States still 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.