Maine Diver Scallops
Inescapable winter weather settles in just as SCUBA divers adventure up to sixty feet below the ocean’s surface, with water temperatures close to freezing and air temperatures close to zero. On December 1, they began their search for sea scallops on the coastal ocean floor of Maine, with the season open only until April.
Over 99% of the entire Atlantic Sea Scallop harvest is collected by offshore dredging, making those scallops caught by divers less that one percent of the annual catch. Due to the geography of Maine’s coastline, many scallop-rich areas are too rocky for dredging, but the water is shallow enough for divers to go down and harvest the product by hand. Of those gathered and sold, most go to residents of the state of Maine, with only a small percentage reserved for out-of-state sale. Buyer beware of many who offer “Maine diver scallops” year round – many are mislabeled, especially if they are whole and live, since only the adductor muscle, or scallop “meat,” is legal to sell in Maine.
Divers only look for large, mature scallops, often by eyeing pale rings of sand that mark the outward motion of the mollusk's two shells. A strategic technique, this leaves both ocean floor environment and still-developing scallop populations unharmed. Because of zero stress, jostling, or friction involved in harvesting, scallops collected by these professional divers are known to have an even more velvety texture than normal, of course maintaining their rich, sweet quality.
Sole, a fish prized for it's delicate, sweet taste and versatility in cooking, originally came from the Northeastern Atlantic. The term "Dover sole" originated because so many of the fish came from the port of Dover in Great Britain in the 19th century, more than any other area in Europe. With this booming popularity, the wild sole around Western Europe quickly diminished to a level that put the population at serious risk.
About eighty miles east of New York City lies the quaint and historical haven of the Peconic Bay. Situated between the North and South forks on the end of Long Island, this ecosystem is mainly fed by the Peconic River, forging an estuary that is now greatly profiting from diligent management practices that have saved it from dissolution.
Historically speaking, the Peconic area provided over eighty percent of New York State's bay scallops. Eutrophication, raised nitrogen levels, and poor management brought on a brown algal bloom in 1985, bringing many species, the bay scallop among them, close to failure.
Not anymore. The locals came together here on Long Island to redefine what it meant to protect and redevelop their resources, putting scallops from Nantucket Bay, off the coast of Massachusetts, on the same level as the now-booming Peconics.
Obviously, we recommend the locally managed and supported fishery about an hour away.
Remarkably sweet, delicate, and popularly consumed raw, Peconic Bay scallops are shucked live and guarded carefully before, during, and after their short trip across Long Island. This local delicacy isn't something you can miss out on.