Dayboat scallops. Diver scallops. Dry scallops. Drag-caught scallops. Farmed scallops. What??
Most people don’t know what these terms mean, and to make it even more complicated, no one polices their usage. There’s a TON of fraud associated with the terms “diver” “dry” and “dayboat” scallops. But even though these terms are often used nefariously, I think you should at least know what they’re SUPPOSED to mean. So here’s a primer:
- TRIP BOATS: 95 percent of the quota is allocated to the DAS (Days at Sea) – vessels. Their allocation comes in the form of a certain number of days they’re allowed to fish, plus a certain number of trips into productive access areas. When fishing in open areas their travel time counts against the amount of time they’re allowed to fish, so they tend to stay out on long trips – if it takes 20 hours to steam to a spot, they want to stay there a while before steaming back. They can fish in any open area at any time throughout the year and can take as many pounds as they want. If they’re fishing in an access area they’re limited to 18,000 pounds. While fishing they store their catch in cloth bags buried in ice, which melts and can soak into the scallops. They sometimes bring in tens of thousands of pounds from one trip.
- DAYBOATS: 5 percent of the quota is allocated to the IFQ (Individual Fishing Quota) fleet – “dayboats”. Their quota comes in the form of a set number of pounds they can harvest. They can fish in any open area any time of year but can only harvest 600 pounds per trip.
- Northern Gulf of Maine Dayboats: Just to complicate matters, there’s a super tiny fishery in the Northern Gulf of Maine (roughly Boston Harbor north to the Canadian line). This fishery has an entirely separate quota, which in recent years has been less than 200,000 pounds. The fishery opens April 1 and closes when the quota is reached (usually in May). These boats can only fish in the Northern Gulf of Maine and can only harvest 200 pounds per trip. Incidentally, these NGOM boats are who I’ve been advocating for for the past 10 years – we had to fight to preserve this fishery.
- Draggers: Maine’s drag season is determined each year but basically it lasts between 55 and 70 days (depending on the area) that can occur between December 1 and April 15. Draggers can fish any open day and are limited to either 15 gallons (roughly 135 pounds) or 10 gallons (90 pounds) depending on fishing area. They bring in over 95% of Maine scallops.
- Divers: Maine divers get the same number of days to fish as the draggers, but their calendar is different – their days can select occur between November and April. They’re also limited to either 15 gallons or 10 gallons depending on area. Divers bring in less than 5% of Maine’s landings, which constitute less than 2% of landings overall, so we’re talking a TINY fraction of US sea scallops. The important take-home from this is that the VAST majority of scallops labeled “diver scallops” were actually harvested by draggers. And the fraud is so pervasive that some reputable agencies actually define “diver scallop” as a scallop that hasn’t been treated with chemicals.
- Aquaculturists: Maine now has sea farmers growing scallops. They can harvest any time of year but if they’re selling the whole scallop they have to test them for biotoxins. The amount they’re bringing in is miniscule – way less than one one tenth of one percent, but we hope it will increase.
- “Dry”: Theoretically, a dry scallop is one that hasn’t been soaked in chemicals like sodium tripolyphosphate. But, as with the term “diver scallop”, no one actually polices who uses this term, so it’s abused so often as to be essentially meaningless. I’ve seen “dry scallops” that have clearly been soaked in chemicals, and I’ve heard of companies who call a scallop “dry” as long as it’s soaked for just a few hours as opposed to 24 hours or longer. Also, it’s important to remember that if you’re buying scallops from trip boats, they’ve been sitting on ice, absorbing water over the course of the trip.