This species of scallop used to support a large fishery on the East Coast of the United States, but since the 1950s, the fishery of the wild scallops has decreased greatly. This decrease is apparently the result of several negative influences, one of which is a reduction in sea grasses (to which bay scallop spat attach) due to increased coastal development and concomitant nutrient runoff. Another possible factor is reduction of sharks from overfishing. A variety of sharks used to feed on rays, which are a main predator of bay scallops. With the shark population reduced, in some places almost eliminated, the rays have been free to feed on scallops to the point of greatly decreasing their numbers.
By contrast, the Atlantic sea scallop (Placopecten magellanicus) is at historically high levels of abundance, after recovery from overfishing.
Bay scallops are now raised in aquaculture in Florida. They were introduced into China for the 1980s and are the basis of a vibrant aquaculture industry in that country.
The shell of Arca zebra is boldly striped in brown and white which gives it a resemblance to the wing of a wild turkey. The whole shell (when both valves are together) has also been likened to Noah’s Ark. It is a sturdy shell growing up to 4 in (10 cm) long and 2 in wide. The umbones are separated by a shallow depression, and the hinge is long and straight with about 50 small teeth. There is coarse sculpturing fanning out from the umbones. The inside of the shell is whitish or pale mauve.
The size of an adult shell varies between 44 mm and 133 mm. From the original Lovell Augustus Reeve description (published 1843): The shell is fusiformly oblong, thick, solid, very rough throughout, transversely conspicuously ridged, tuberculated between the varices ; three-varicose, varices tuberculated with a complicated mass of laminae ; fulvous or reddish brown, columella and interior of the aperture ochraceous yellow, columellar lip slightly wrinkled, edge erected, vividly stained, especially at the upper part, with very black brown ; outer lip strongly toothed, ornamented with three black-brown spots ; canal rather short, compressed, recurved.”