U.S. Northeast Atlantic — Sea Scallop
Fish harvesters drag a large cone-shaped net along the seafloor to catch sea scallops. The net is sunk and held open by two “otter boards” that look like large, heavy steel or wooden doors. As the net is towed at low speed, hydrodynamic forces push the boards outwards opening the mouth of the net and dredging up scallops its path. The net is then hauled to the surface using hydraulic winches and a drum. A single tow can net scallops along with incidental catch.
Also known as “dragging,” bottom trawling uses a large net made of polyethylene to catch fish. Steel or wooden doors spread the net open. Floats are attached to the upper mouth of the net to keep it open vertically and weighted “bobbins” are attached to the lower mouth to sink the net. The bobbins’ design depends on the terrain, varying from small rubber discs for smooth sandy seafloors to large metal balls for rough ground. Known as “rock hoppers,” bobbins lift the net over obstacles on the seafloor.
In the U.S. Northeast Atlantic, many different species are caught in bottom trawls. These include sea scallops, Atlantic cod, haddock, pollock, yellowtail flounder, witch flounder, winter flounder, windowpane flounder, American plaice, Atlantic halibut, redfish, ocean pout and white hake. Most trawlers are federally permitted to catch multiple groundfish species. Some trawlers also have state permits to catch allocations in state waters.
Bottom trawls disturb habitat when dragged along the seabed, and impacts vary by sediment type and the trawl gear used. Undersized and unwanted species (bycatch) are also unintentionally caught.
The New England Fisheries Management Council manages the fishery using a combination of effort controls such as gear and days-at-sea restrictions and output controls such as annual catch limits. A number of measures address conservation in this fishery, including:
FishWatch - Click for status
Seafood Watch - Good Alternative
Mar 01 - Feb 28
For stock status, visit the Northeast Regional Office of NOAA’s Fisheries Service.
Scallops are all hand shucked as they are caught and the abductor muscle (scallop meat) is rinsed in salt water and transferred to a clean burlap sack that allows the meat to breath. They are then placed on ice to await being sold to the buyer at the end of the fishing trip.