Scuba diving for scallops in Port Phillip Bay has given me a renewed appreciation for this precious natural resource. I didn’t know that in 1963 the scallop fishery began and expanded before collapsing in 1969 due to over-fishing of the scallop beds. The fishery recovered and continued until 1997 when the Government closed the fishery in Port Phillip Bay to commercial scallop fishing. Since then a recreational license to take scallops and a daily bag limit of 100 has applied. This 1960’s exploitation fits neatly with our skippers recollection of bountiful offerings of boring curried scallops in the bain-maries of Melbourne cafeterias.
At our special spot off the coast of Rye we descended to a depth of 12 meters where the visibility was poor and we could not see the surface, just the soft sediments of mud and coarse sand on the sea bed floor. It takes a while to know what to look for as the scallops lie buried with only the flat side visible. Amongst the scallops were many small sting rays, the occasional flathead and the scallops natural predator the starfish. Once you get your eye in, its like picking vegetables from the garden!
We prepared and ate the scallops in several ways, the best of which was raw. Fresh, raw scallop meat is sweet, creamy and succulent and delicious with a squeeze of lemon or wasabi. Next we ate them pan seared with a little garlic, olive oil, seaweed and fresh chopped herbs. A very special treat, perfect with a glass of Montalto Riesling.
- Written by Anthony Jones