Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ocean Sweets

Here come those sweet as candy scallops from Nantucket, Massachusetts. The first harvests started on November 1st. Every year our chefs start salivating at the mention of these translucent gems. Nantucket bay scallops are harvested by a limited group of skilled fishermen supplementing their income. These treats garner top dollar to these baymen, and even in the peak of season supply can be tight. I must confess that when they first arrive in the warehouse I am quick to gobble down more than I need to determine quality. Some interesting facts a bout Nantucket Bays:
  • Bay scallops only live a year or two, and usually die after spawning the first time.
  • Scallops must be over two and one quarter inches. But may grow to four or more.
  • Only scallops with an annual growth ridge are allowed to be harvested.
  • Rules are enforced by the local Constable or Fish Warden.
  • The catch limit is 5 bushels (provided by the Town) per person per day and no more than 10 bushels per boat if two or more persons occupy the same boat.
  • No commercial harvest is allowed on Sundays, a carryover from times past.
  • Air temperature must reach 28 degrees by 10:00 am. If the Temperature is too cold then a red flag will be flown indicating no scalloping allowed.
  • Predatory bycatch like starfish, periwinkles, and crabs must be taken ashore and left above the high tide mark.
  • Eelgrass is an important asset to the scallop and in years when there is a problem with the grass, like in the 1930’s, then the population of bay scallops will be low.
  • Harvests have varied over the years: 2004/2005 = 15,000 bushels, 2005/2006 = 3,850 bushels, 2006/2007 = 5,500.
  • The start of the season had roughly 140 commercially licensed scallopers.
  • The family scallop season started October 1st with reports of full bushels being brought in.
  • One million seed scallops released early this year to assure future harvests. Plans are already underway to release another million seed next year.

Nantucket is one of the last remaining wild bay scallop fisheries left in New England. So despite some low harvests, we can look forward to this long standing resource to be available for some time to come.

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