Scallops are one of the most popular seafood items due to their unique appealing texture and succulent flavors. U.S. fishermen have landed between 50 and 60 million pounds of scallops annually over the past decade, and it is one of the nation’s most valuable fisheries. Scallops have been among the top ten seafood items consumed in the U.S. for decades, and Americans eat about one third pound of scallops per year.

Types and Sources of Product

There are several types of scallops harvested in North America including the sea scallop, bay scallop and calico scallop. Several types of wild and farm raised scallops are also imported from Japan, China and Europe. A description of common varieties of scallops, harvest locations, and their general size categories are provided in the Table below.

Common Name Scientific Name Size Category Harvest Locations
Sea Scallop Placopecten magellanicus Large Northeast U.S. & Canada
Weathervane Scallop Patinopecten caurinus Large Alaska
Japanese Scallop Patinopecten yessoensis Large Japan
Bay Scallop Argopecten irradians Medium MA to NC
Pink Scallop 
Spiny Scallop
Chlamys rubia     
Chalmys hastate
Medium to Small AK to CA
Calico Scallop Argopecten gibbus Small NC to FL
Queen Scallop Chlamys opercularis Small Europe
Icelandic Scallop Chalmys islandica Small Iceland, Europe & Canada

Product Forms and Buyer Advice

Scallops are available as fresh refrigerated meats or frozen meats. Size categories refer to the size of the adductor muscle (scallop meats) which is the main edible portion of the scallop. Scallop size categories can be simply grouped as large, medium and small. There are no enforced grade designations for scallop size. However, in general large scallops are likely to have between 10 and 30 meats per pound, medium scallops between 30 and 70 per pound, and small scallops between 70 and 110 per pound.

Scallop adductor muscle has a tendency to absorb water when removed from the shell. Likewise, the meats can lose moisture when thawed or stored in refrigeration for some time. For the larger varieties, buyers can specify a purchase for ‘dry’ or ‘wet’ scallops, which refers to prior processing procedures that can influence the moisture content in the scallop. Wet scallops may be treated during processing to retain moisture. Dry scallops are not treated. 

In some markets whole scallops are sold as a specialty item, but most U.S. consumers prefer the adductor muscle alone. Similar to oysters and clams, scallops are filter feeding bivalves (two shells) that can be influenced by the contents of the surrounding waters. Certain plankton and the presence of scallop roe can influence the color of some scallop meats. Such coloration (tan, yellow and orange tones) is not a product defect.

The old tale about scallops being made by punching out round portions from some other fish is just that, an old tale. There is no financial incentive for this practice and the resulting products would be very easy to detect.

Nutrition Information

Scallops are a low fat seafood choice that is a good source of protein and some minerals and vitamins. Based on an average serving size of 3.5 ounces (100 grams), a serving of scallops can include 4 to 5 large scallop meats, 9 to 12 medium scallop meats and 15-20 or more small scallop meats. A nutrition label for a 3 ounce cooked portion of steamed scallop meats is provided.

Management and Sustainability

According to the NOAA Fish Watch website, the nation's most important scallop resource, Atlantic sea scallops, is healthy and harvested at sustainable levels. For example, certain species like the Icelandic scallop from cold arctic waters are more sedentary or attached to the bottom. For this population, fishing activity with the commonly used dredging techniques can impact the resource and special management practices are necessary. In contrast, the rapid growing and somewhat mobile calico scallops found in warm waters about Florida can vary significantly in abundance from year to year with little relation to prior fishing activity.

According to the NOAA Fish Watch website, the nation’s most important scallop resource, Sea scallops, is healthy and harvested at sustainable levels. Fishing effort has been reduced and areas where scallops can be harvested are rotated to maximize scallop yields and protect beds of young scallops as they grow. Bay and calico scallops tend to be harvested in coastal waters close to shore and are primarily managed by state regulations. Overall, most scallop production is subject to effective management programs and aquaculture (scallop farming) is expanding.


National Marine Fisheries Service, 2011. Fisheries of the United States 2010

NOAA Fish Watch

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference