Scallop season is here: need to knows


Scallop season is here, opening on the 1st of September for many of us and it’s important to refamiliarise yourself with the rules before jumping in the water.

Auckland, Central and Kermadec: 20pp minimum size 100mm

South-East: 20pp minimum size 100mm (Season opened 15th July)

Kaikoura, Marlborough Sounds, Tasman Bay, Golden Bay and Port Underwood: Closed

Challenger: Areas that are open have a limit of 50pp and 90mm minimum size (Season opened 15th July)

Southland: 10pp minimum size 100mm (Season opens 1st October)

The most important thing is to measure and count as you collect. It can be a good idea to mark on the handle of your catchbag the size limit to save fumbling with a measure. Or in the case of freedivers, immediately upon resurfacing. The measurement is taken across the widest part of the shell. On the surface, recounting and measuring to be sure is important and if you have collected too many or got any small ones it’s important to return them ASAP. Put them in as similar as a location as where you collected it from- putting it back on a rocky reef for example is likely to result in mortality of the scallop.

freediver for scallops
The excited smile of freediver Louis after collecting his first scallops of the season

You are allowed to collect for up to 2 safety people on the vessel and it’s a good idea to communicate clearly who will collect for them before going down to prevent over collecting. You cannot dive for a safety person if you’re doing a shore dive.

It’s permitted to shuck and eat on-board your vessel but any eaten must be counted in your count. Any scallops not eaten must be returned to shore in its shell.

Once underwater the best strategy for finding the camouflaged critters is to look for disturbed areas of sand or gravel where they have been digging. One you find one, others are likely to be close by.

All of these rules are to ensure there are plenty of scallops available for future generations to enjoy. It’s no secret that around the country scallop populations are declining so let’s not be greedy and make sure we’re being responsible divers.

There are many different ways to enjoy eating your scallops post-dive but I enjoy them best cooked with a little crushed garlic and butter in a hot pan with salt and pepper. Each side should be fried between one to two minutes and the center of the muscle should still be translucent to prevent overcooking.

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