Scallops are always a good bet for your summertime menus. Scallops are very versatile as they can be grilled, baked, broiled, sautéed, and fried. While the most popular sizes for restaurants have always been U/10, we are seeing more and more chefs choosing 10/20s as they can show their guests a better value by putting more scallops on the plate.
There are a few factors contributing to the prices of scallops. First off, the annual catch limit for domestic scallops has been cut in half since 2019, from 61 million pounds to 31 million. To make matters worse, while we used to depend heavily on Mid-Atlantic scallops, this year, the quality coming out of those waters has been very poor, with grey, milky scallops with a higher than usual amount of nematodes (worms). That puts pressure on the New England areas to produce the bulk of the scallops on the market.
The areas that scallop boats work in are heavily regulated to conserve stocks and create a sustainable fishery. Each ship has an allotted amount of scallops they are allowed to catch and are told which waters they can work in at different times of the year. Boats are currently fishing in Closed Area II until its scheduled closure on August 15. Closed Area II is off the coast of New England in Georges Bank. The scallops being caught are primarily in that mid-size range creating a glut of 10/20s while larger sizes (U/8s and U/10s) are far more scarce and therefore more expensive. The fuel of course is also a factor as it costs a boat much more to work a day than when diesel fuel was under $5/gallon.
When talking to our primary scallop vendor in New Bedford, we learned that the demand is actually lower than in pre-pandemic times, which is keeping those mid-sized scallops at a reasonable price. They believe prices will continue to stay where they are until the summer. Prices will start to trend upward by late fall and through the holidays in December.