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Frequently Asked Questions

Atlantic scallops typically spawn in the warmer weather, late summer into early fall. Sometimes it can occur with spawning taking place in the spring and then again in late August or early September. During this time the scallop’s energy is utilized for spawning, the scallops purge a milky liquid leaving the scallop meat to be less firm.   Scallops can go from completely ripe to completely spent in less than a week.   This natural occurrence does not affect the flavor of the scallops.

This gassy odor is completely normal. When scallops are caught and shelled it takes some time for the dissolved gasses to leave the scallop mussel (the part we eat). Since they are caught, shucked and packaged in a very short time they “off-gas” inside the sealed containers. This can cause a mild, gassy odor when you first open the sealed container. This “gassy” odor should not linger and once the container has been opened the scallops should have a slightly sweet ocean smell.

Although they are shellfish, fresh scallops should not smell fishy. Rather, they should give off a sweet, seaweed aroma. If the fish odor is strong, discard them.

Scallops can naturally take on an orange hue, sometimes pinky-peach to deep orange. This orange hue is caused by an excess of a natural pigment called zeaxanthin in the female scallop. As the gonad ripens and takes on an orange tint any overabundance of this pigment is transported into the adductor muscle (the part we consume). Meat quality and taste is not affected at all and some have reported that the orange scallops are slightly sweeter.

The Atlantic Scallop season begins April 1 and goes straight through to December.  The bulk of the scallops are harvested between May and July.

Anytime is a good time to buy scallops. Domestic scallops are harvested all year long, however spawning usually takes place in April for the Atlantic Scallop and this can sometimes produce a scallop that is less firm.

Eastern Fisheries own and operates 27 fishing vessels, the largest fleet in the scallop industry.

View all of the boats on the Vessels page of the Eastern Fisheries website.

The Japanese Hokkaido fishery is the largest in the world. Harvest begins in May. The Japanese scallop is the closest in size and taste to the domestic scallop.

Peruvian scallops harvests primarily in the fall, September through November. The scallop sizes are slightly smaller at 20/30, 30/40, 40/60 and 60/80 counts.

Cultivated China bays scallops are harvested between November and December.

The “sweet meat” on a scallop, also referred to as the “catch” is a crescent shaped piece of harder tissue that is attached to one side of the scallop meat. This is usually removed in the shucking or cleaning process, but if you have a few scallops with the sweet meat still attached it should be removed prior to cooking otherwise it will get incredibly tough.

If packaged correctly frozen IQF scallops have a 24-month shelf life. Fresh scallops, kept in the coldest part of your cooler, have a two-day shelf life.

Longline refers to the harvest method. This method uses a very long main line with many hooks attached, it is submerged in the ocean using weights. Lines can stretch out for miles. Typically longline fish are handled less than fish caught in a trawl net so they tend to have less imperfections.

Market cod and scrod are the same species, usually scrod refers to the smaller cut and market refers to a slightly larger cut.

Frozen-at-sea. Because frozen at sea fish is frozen immediately after it is caught, it is often fresher at time of thawing than fresh fish that was purchased a day or two after is was caught.

If the fish is properly packaged the frozen shelf life is 24 months.

Our flounder and sole is caught in Alaska. The product is then shipped to our factory in China, where it is cleaned, inspected, filleted and frozen. FDA regulations dictate that the country of origin needs to be the place where the product was transformed. Because the product is processed and undergoes a substantial transformation at our plant in China, by law we need to use “product of China” on our product labeling.

Naturally occurring parasites, or round worms, called nematodes are common in most fish. It is important to know from the start that these parasites do not present any health issues in thoroughly cooked fish.

Every fish has the potential to have parasites. They are as common in fish as insects are in fruits and vegetables. The nematodes begin in the stomach of marine mammals, most often the grey seal. Eggs pass from the seal to the ocean floor where they are consumed by shrimp and other crustaceans. The shrimp is a major food source to cod and flounder and as they consume the shrimp, they consume the nematodes.

The process to remove the nematodes is called candling. This involves examining fish fillets over bright lights. The fillets are placed over a trimming table, which has a transparent top and is illuminated from below with white, fluorescent lights. Candling detects surface parasites which show up as dark shadows and are quickly disposed of using special tweezer-like tools. There are times when parasites cannot be seen if they are embedded deep in thicker fillets, such as cod.

The good news is freezing or cooking the fish will kill any parasites that may be present. During commercial freezing fish is frozen solid at a temperature of -35°F and stored at this temperature or below for a minimum of 15 hours to kill any parasites that may be present.

Fish is also safe to eat after it is cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F for just 15 seconds. Normal cooking procedures generally exceed this temperature.

If a parasite is present in your fish you can remove it, examine the fish for others and then cook the fish (which will kill any parasites that may be unseen.)

Just remember the presence of nematodes is a natural occurrence and by no means indicates you purchased spoiled or un-fresh fish and they do not alter the taste or nutritional value of the fish in any way.

Fish have a spine that runs from the head to the back fin (caudal fin) and along that spine are tiny intramuscular bones, referred to as false ribs or pin bones.

If you eat a lot of fish chances are you have come across one of these tiny bones.  The pin bones are removed during processing when the spine is trimmed out by hand with a fillet knife.  The fish then goes through another  process called candling, where fish fillets are placed on a surface illuminated from below with white, fluorescent lights. If there are pin bones that exist they are remove by hand.  Although it is rare, in thicker fish, such as cod, it is possible to miss a pin bone.

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