Scallop lovers cannot catch a break this summer.
Even though more sea scallops are being harvested, the demand for them is increasing, which keeps the price high when ordering them.
Hannah Hansen, the manager of H&H Seafood in Cape May, said the price of scallops started to rise toward the end of August and September last year and decreased over the winter.
Still, the price of scallops per pound has increased from $15.95 to $16.95 in the past year.
“With scallop pricing, some years are down, and some years are up,” said Hansen, who offers Old Bay dusted scallops on her dockside dining menu.
New data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the scallop harvest topped 58.2 million pounds last year, the highest total since 2011 and the fifth-largest in history, according to federal statistics going back to 1945.
The scallop industry is thriving as a result of years of conservative management that has allowed the valuable shellfish to grow undisturbed, said Jimmy Wotton, a scalloper based in Friendship, Maine.
As the supply of scallops has increased, the consumer demand for them has risen even more, leading to an increase in price, said Robert Vanasse, spokesman for Fisheries Survival Fund, a Washington D.C.-based fishing advocacy group.
Customers traditionally pay between $18 to $22 per pound for scallops, but the amount that customers will pay for scallops varies from location to location.
The Cape May Fish Market is charging $18.99 per pound. Dominic Alcaro, the owner of Barbera Seafood in Atlantic City, said he is charging $15.99 per pound for his sea scallops, which are larger than bay scallops.
“For those who get the good quality stuff, they don’t mind paying the money, but you can’t hurt them with the prices. You have got to keep it reasonable,” Alcaro said.
The fishery is projecting to harvest even more pounds this year, said Andrew Minkiewicz, a Washington, D.C.,-based attorney who works with Fisheries Survival Fund.
“When you have a fishery that is constantly able to supply the product, you can sustain that demand,” he said.
Scallops on the East Coast have been a stable resource because there has been an increase in the quota that can be harvested for the past two years, said Wayne Reichle, owner and president of Lund’s Fisheries in Cape May.
Lund’s Fisheries uses its company-owned vessels and independent vessels to collect the shellfish. On weekdays, a seafood auction is held in New Bedford, Massachusetts, which provides a guideline for the price Lund’s will charge wholesalers, Reichle said.
“It’s supply and demands,” Reichle said. “A lot of scallops are imported. There are large scallops coming from Japan. It’s a global market.”
Seafood prices are set by the market, what’s being landed, where, and the quantities being landed, Reichle said.
Traditionally, there is not a great deal of summer flounder caught in June, for example, Reichle said. During the shoulder season, flounder is $3 or $4 a pound, but now, it is $6 a pound.
The price of scallops increases $1 or $2 every year, said Chris Monge, Jr., one of the owners of Bella Vida Garden Cafe in West Cape May.
“Seafood is tough for a restaurant. Some restaurants just say market price,” said Monge when it comes to the cost of fish dinners on a menu. “It goes up and goes down. We build our menu twice a year.”
Scallops and crab meat are among the most expensive, Monge said. Scallops were up to about $16 a pound two months ago, he said. They are now down to $13.95 or $14.95.
Michael Monichetti, owner of Mike’s Seafood & Dock Restaurant in Sea Isle City, said scallop prices have fluctuated a great deal this year. Tuna and swordfish prices have stayed the same. Flounder prices have dropped, but clams are spiking up. They have increased $10 per $100 during the two last years, Monichetti said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.