Divers off the shores of Lopez Island are searching the depths of Puget Sound for a rare delicacy that hasn't surfaced here for more than 20 years.
"It's like nothing you've ever eaten before," said Nick Jones, owner of Jones Family Farms. "It's a unique experience."
Singing Pink Scallops were fashionable in upscale restaurants all along the West Coast in the 1980s and 1990s. Increased regulation made the harvest too difficult, and the shellfish all but disappeared from people's plates.
Pink Singers, as they're known, are considered even more rare than Beluga Caviar. That's because you can only harvest them in the San Juan and Canadian Gulf Islands, and divers have to hand pick them at depths of up to 110 feet.
"We think of them as the quintessential San Juan seafood," said Jones, whose farm is the only one currently harvesting the shellfish.
Jones Family Farms is currently supplying Pink Singing Scallops to 45 locations around Puget Sound.
They're called Pink Singers because of their pinkish color and because they open and close their shells while they swim, giving the appearance that they're singing.
It took Jones seven years to crack the state's bureaucratic shell so he could bring the delicacy back to the tables of the Northwest. He said he decided to take on the challenge after talking with a food writer who asked whatever happened to the Pink Singers.
"It became a bit of an obsession," he said.
With such a rare and lucrative commodity now open for fishing, more people are sure to try to cash in, creating concerns about sustainability
Jones said the permitting process is so strict and the harvest so tricky that Pink Singers are likely to have people singing their praises for many years to come.
"These guys live so far down at the bottom of the sound that we could never get to them all," he said. "And that's a good thing."
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