Diversified & Profitable: Overcoming Challenges of Winter Mortality in Bay Scallop Culturing to Meet Increasing Demand Left by Wild Fishery Decline

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2023: $12,042.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2024
Grant Recipient: Aquidneck Island Oyster Company
Region: Northeast
State: Rhode Island
Project Leader:
Dan Torre
Aquidneck Island Oyster Company


  • Animals: shellfish


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, aquaculture, winter forage

    Proposal summary:

    Investigation is necessary to elucidate bottlenecks and optimize bay scallop (Argopecten irradians) cultivation to fill the void in the market left by the commercial fishery decline. Whole animal aquacultured scallops are a relatively untapped market with demonstrated value in the restaurant industry. Bay scallop seed can be purchased from hatcheries, however priority is given to outputting oyster seed. As a result, delays in seed availability are usually expected, thus introducing complications to growers due to reduced growing season and extreme overwintering mortality. Current culturing techniques have led to sporadic success, however not at a rate that has prompted any scale. The largest bottlenecks in bay scallop culture arise because of excessive overwintering mortality. If culturing techniques are optimized, scallops can be brought to market size within one season. The objectives of this study are to bolster this potentially lucrative and sustainable crop through research aimed at maximizing growth in the nursery stage and minimizing mortality over winter. Nursery and wintering techniques will be evaluated across two locations with differing conditions to appraise growth and mortality rates. Three nursery techniques will be evaluated to identify the best method of producing marketable, single season, in-shell bay scallops. Additionally, over-winter stocking densities will be assessed to optimize survivability of submarket scallops while recognizing scalability as a primary concern. Growth and mortality data from this study will provide guidance to farmers, nursery operations, hatcheries, and FSA. Demonstrated success in bay scallop culture will attract other growers and warrant hatcheries to start prioritizing seed accordingly.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to identify methods to remove bottlenecks in growing a highly demanded but under-cultured species that has been subject to overfishing and habitat loss. This study aims to elucidate techniques to optimize the two most important life cycle stages of bay scallop culturing including, nursery and overwintering. Two specific objectives are proposed:

    1. Evaluate nursery techniques to identify the best scalable method of producing marketable, single season, in-shell bay scallops.
    2. Assess winter strategies to provide guidance to growers on the best methods to maximize survivability of bay scallop overwinter, taking into account environmental variability, gear types, and stocking densities.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.