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Scallop, King, scallops

Pecten maximus

Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - Dive caught
Capture area - North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area - UK
Stock detail - All Areas
Certification -
Fish type - Shellfish

Sustainability rating Click for explaination of rating

This fish, caught by the methods and in the area listed above, is a good sustainable fish to eat. Click on the rating icon above to read more and on the alternatives tab below to find similar fish to eat.

Sustainability overview

Diver-caught scallops are a good sustainable choice, providing commercial harvesting is licensed, the fishery is managed and responsible and legal minimum landing sizes adhered to. They are becoming increasingly available in supermarkets and restaurants, look at product labelling or menu for details. Avoid buying scallops below their legal minimum landing size and during their breeding season (April to September).


King scallops are bivalve molluscs found in a range of depths from shallow waters in sea lochs to over 100m. They inhabit sandy-gravel and gravel seabeds. They have 2 shells or valves, the upper being flat, and the under or right valve, cup shaped. They are hermaphrodites (i.e. both male and female) and become fully mature at about 3 years old (80 to 90mm in length). Spawning occurs in the warmer months, from April to September. The species can grow to more than 20cm in length and live for more than 20 years, although average sizes are in the range of 10-16cm.

Stock information

Stock area

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Stock information
There are 4 main scallop fishing areas in UK waters: the English Channel, Irish Sea (Isle of Man), west of Scotland and the Moray Firth. In comparison to other commercial species, relatively little is currently known about the state of scallop stocks and no formal assessment of stocks is carried out in England and Wales. Although the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and the University of Bangor are developing surveys to improve understanding of the status of scallop stocks and better inform stock assessment through increased understanding of sub-stocks. There are signs of decline in some parts of the UK, but scientific interpretations of landings data suggest the majority of stocks in English waters is currently relatively healthy. This is especially true in the English Channel, an important scalloping area, where landings per unit effort has increased significantly in recent years. Marine Scotland defines 8 scallop management areas for Scottish waters, and undertakes both fishery and fishery-independent research as the basis for stock assessments. Similarly, the Irish Government introduced improved data collection for fisheries management purposes in the southern Irish Sea scallop fishery, including fishery independent surveys and habitat mapping. Formal stock assessment or quota management have not yet been implemented. Lack of coordination between various governments involved in the management of scallops in UK waters appears to be a major limitation to the improvement of this fishery.


Approximately 95% of scallops are caught by vessels using dredges, with a much smaller amount harvested by divers. Approximately 60% of these scallops are exported to European Countries, and France in particular, where British scallops are held in high regard. Commercial scallop dredging has taken place in the waters surrounding England for over 30 years and has developed into one of the country's most valuable fisheries. A stakeholder-based National Scallop Group, coordinated by Seafish, was established in 2008 to address industry issues, including environmental impacts. There are no quotas set for this species. Effort in these fisheries i.e. UK fleet capacity is capped through restrictive licensing. There are no seasonal closures in UK waters generally to protect stocks. For king scallops, current European Union (EU) legislation specifies a minimum landing size of 100 Mm shell length, except in the English Channel and Irish Sea where the limit is 110 mm. Generally, the maximum number of dredges is restricted to 6-8 per side within 6 nautical miles of the shore around the UK. Between 6 and 12 miles the fishery is less restricted, with a maximum of 8 dredges per side allowed in English waters, And 10 per side in Scottish waters. Outside the 12 mile limit, up to 14 dredges are permitted in Scotland, but in England there are no limits. As a result, some boats fish more than 20 per side, with dredge number only being limited by the size and horsepower of the fishing vessels. Scallop fisheries in Wales are more strictly regulated than Anywhere else in the UK. No scallop fishing is allowed within 1 mile of the shore and dredging between 1 and 3 miles is only permitted by boats less than 10 m in length and towing no more than 6 dredges in total. Within 3-6 miles and 6-12 miles respectively, totals of 8 and 14 dredges are allowed. Furthermore, all scallop dredgers in Wales must carry and use working satellite Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS). Throughout Northern Irish waters out to 12 miles there is a maximum limit of 6 dredges per side. Finally, within Manx (Isle of Man) waters, dredges are limited to 25 feet total width out to 3 miles, and 40 feet between 3 and 12 miles. VMS is also compulsory around the Isle of Man. Apart from these general regulations, various local authorities impose stricter rules in specific areas throughout the UK. For example, some Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) in England limit vessel sizes within their jurisdictions to 12-15 m in length. In addition, scallop dredging is banned within 3 miles of the shore in the Sussex IFCA district, and in an increasing number of European Marine Sites - Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) - in both England and Wales. For example, recent byelaws introduced by the Southern IFCA in England, who manage a total area of 670km2, ban the use of towed fishing gear (including scallop dredges) within 25% of their coastal waters ( Likewise, dredging is banned within the Cardigan Bay SAC in Wales ( and in 6 fishery exclusion zones around the Isle of Man a network of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) is currently being introduced in England and Wales through the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act and a network of Scottish Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is currently being consulted on in Scotland through the Marine (Scotland) Act. However, it is still unclear how these designations will regulate fisheries.

Capture information

Dive-caught is a selective method of capture which causes little or no damage to the seabed compared with scallop dredging. Scallops hand-collected by divers are also generally larger and of better quality than those scallops caught by dredging. Diving is restricted by depth to < 30m, which creates a natural 'refuge' below this depth for wild populations to regenerate. Divers can however target concentrated areas of scallops in depths <30m but inaccessible to dredges, which may be acting as a spawning stock over a wider area. The minimum landing size for scallop in EU waters is 100mm, except in the northern Irish Sea (Isle of Man), Eastern English Channel and Welsh waters where it is 110 mm. Diver-caught scallops (Pecten maximus) constitute around 5% of landings in the UK, the majority originating from Scotland.

Read more about capture methods


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