October 04, 2016

All about scallops

On the occasion of the Scallop Festival and gastronomy, we reveal all the secrets of this mollusc.

The scallop

Scallop shell OT Villers

Its scientific name is Pecten maximus, but its common name scallop shell comes from the time when pilgrims going to Santiago de Compostela, a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages in Spain, used empty shells to beg or to eat.

The scallop is a bivalve mollusc that lives on sandy-muddy and shellfish bottoms, between 10 and 80 meters deep, and includes more than 300 species. It is formed of two valves with ribs, one of which is bulging and the other flat. An auricle is present on each side of the hinge which is held by a ligament. The color of the shell varies according to its habitat. It can be pinkish, reddish, brownish or yellowish and measures from 9 to 15 cm. Its weight is on average 115 grams. 

Slightly buried in the sand, the shell feeds on plankton and organic matter suspended in the sea water, which it filters with its gills, creating a circulation of sea water inside its shell, thanks to the vibratory movement of its mantle (the barbs). It is also the mantle that makes the calcareous shell that protects it.

Normandy is the leading French region for scallop fishing. It is also the most important species in terms of fishing value.

France is the 2nd largest consumer of scallops in the world after the United States.

Where, when and how to fish it?

Sale of scallops at the Scallop Festival in Villers-sur-MerOT Villers

The scallop is found in Europe, in the Channel and the Atlantic Ocean. It is concentrated on the French and Spanish coasts. In France, fishing is generally open from October 1 to May 15 and access is limited to classified beds. Yields are higher at the beginning of the season (October to December). 

The scallop is fished with dredges, metal frame devices that fishermen drag along the bottom. It is the teeth on the lower part of the dredge that allow the scallops to be collected and trapped in the metal bag. Mounted on springs, these dredges are called "English". They are towed by small boats of 10 to 16 m, called shellfishermen, which make short trips of a few hours to 2 days. This artisanal fishery is highly regulated, as much for the duration of fishing, the fishing equipment as for the quantity of catches: according to the fishing areas, fishing licenses, fishing days, schedules, quotas, the number of dredges and their characteristics and the size of the boats are defined.

Ports of landing: Port en Bessin, Grandcamp Maisy, Granville, Dieppe, Fécamp, Cherbourg

Quantities landed in Normandy: 15,000 tons

Its growth and reproduction

Anatomy of a scallop Ifremer

The growth and reproductive age of a scallop varies according to the place where it lives and especially the quantity of food available. In the classified area of the Baie de Seine and in the eastern Channel, growth is rapid and reproduction takes place from the age of 2 years. The regulatory fishing size is therefore larger there: 11 cm. In the Bay of Granville and in the Western Channel, growth is slower and reproduction takes place from the age of 2 1/2 to 3 years. This is why the legal fishing size is set at 10.2 cm.

The scallop is hermaphroditic. Its genital gland, the coral, has the shape of an orange tongue (female part) and cream (male). Reproduction takes place in summer, from June to September, during which male and female gametes are successively emitted into the sea water. During this period, the coral is emptied and it is then reconstituted more or less quickly for the laying of the following summer. This is why, during the fishing season, the shells are not coraled in the Bay of Granville and in the Western Channel, but they are in the Bay of Seine and in the Eastern Channel. After fertilization of the gametes, the larvae go through a planktonic life phase on the surface from 3 weeks to one month. They then fall to the bottom as soon as they metamorphose and form their first piece of shell.

Knowing the age of a shell

Scallop fishingWikipedia

It is possible to know the age of a shell by counting the growth streaks of its shell, like a tree. 

She has 60 eyes! In fact, they are ocelli distributed on the edge of its coat (barbs).

The scallop can move when it feels in danger. For example, when a starfish approaches, the shell can strongly wedge its valves, thanks to its powerful muscle and move. But only by a few meters!



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