Iceland scallops are known for their iconic shape, a fan-like shell with fluted grooves. Unlike its giant sea scallop cousin which can propel itself by expelling jets of water, the Iceland scallop attaches itself to rocks on the seafloor in shallow waters. They are plentiful in sub-arctic waters off Newfoundland, Labrador and Quebec in Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Norway, and in the Barents Sea off Russia.
This bi-valve mollusk has a reddish-pink upper shell and white or cream-coloured lower shell. Ten-year-old scallops measure between 6.5 and 8.5 cm in height with the largest measuring 16 cm. The scallop is revered for its sweet, delicious flavour and melt-in-the-mouth texture.
While the giant sea scallop grows quickly reaching reproductive maturity at the age of two, the Iceland scallop is much slower growing. It reaches maturity between five and seven years. It typically lives on a hard seafloor consisting largely of sand, gravel, shell fragments, and stones at depts of 15 to 80 metres. These filter feeders depend on strong currents rich in phytoplankton and small zooplankton for nourishment. They are broadcast spawners with males and females releasing millions of eggs and sperm. Spawning is triggered by warm water and hormonal cues typically between April and August, depending on the area. They grow mostly in the spring and early summer months.
Fish harvesters drag a tow bar attached to metal chain-link baskets along the seafloor to catch sea scallops.