Rye Scallops Fishermen. Sussex, UK
I remember a woman talking to a butcher in a Farmer’s Market. He told her that his meat was humanely killed and hung for a couple of weeks.
And she gave a dramatic shudder and said, ‘Ooh, too much information!’
She was happy to buy a piece of meat as long as she couldn’t picture it as a cow, a pig or a lamb!
It’s the same with our fishermen. People don’t realise what a dangerous job it is, and what terrible handicaps they now have to cope with, thanks to all the bureaucracy.
A lot of fishing fleets that supply our supermarkets are often at sea for 4-5 days.
The fish is unloaded, and taken by lorry to the factories. So it is often a week old when it’s displayed as Fresh Fish in the supermarkets.
Rye has 30 fishing boats that are only at sea for a short time. They’re out and back again within 14 hours. Then the catch is unloaded and sold, fresh and alive, mainly to local restaurants.
But don’t mention the EU! They cause huge problems for our British fishermen, and control their quotas.
The general opinion is that our Government cares more about the farmers than the fishermen!
6-7 of the fishing boats are now equipped to fish for scallops.
At the moment, scallop fishing isn’t limited. But it probably will be as more boats are now catching them.
The fishermen have an agreement amongst themselves to limit what they catch and when they catch it. Although they can catch scallops all year round, for six months the fish have no coral.
The scallops season is from November-April, but they don’t start to fish until mid-December, for the Christmas market.
Like a tree, you can tell how old a scallop is by counting the rings on the shell.
Some scallops are huge, and up to 20 years old, but the meat is small and dry, so they’re thrown back into the sea again to die gracefully of old age.
Their worst enemy – not counting humans – is the starfish. It can sit on top of the shell and poke a leg inside. Then it sucks the meat out.
If it gets stuck, it can re-grow its leg.
Rye’s tradition of scallops fishing is only 30 years old. The boats have about four Spring Loaded Harrows on both sides of the boats, like on the front of an excavator. When lowered, they dredge the bottom of the sea and scoop up the scallops.
On rare occasions the Harrow can get tangled on the bottom and stick there. The boat will then capsize and sink in seconds.
If the fishermen are quick and notice it at once, they may be able to cut the Harrow free. But it’s a very dangerous occupation, and they have to be alert all the time.
Andy, Adam and Russell work at Market Fisheries, where the boats come in.
A lot of the catch comes straight to them, where it’s de-shelled, (I don’t know the technical term, but I’m sure there is one!) and the other fish are gutted, etc, within seconds, and either sent to local restaurants, or placed on sale for customers who know that they’re guaranteed the ultimate in freshness!
The waste is collected and burnt to generate electricity.
They’re local celebrities and have appeared on Hairy Bikers, Charlie Borman’s 10 Mile Menu, Southeast Today, Country Files, Great British Food, Masterchef, and many more!
The 12th annual Rye Bay Scallops Week takes place 15 – 23 February 2014.
There are lots of scallop-related events taking place, and in between, it’s worth a trip to the historical Rye area for a sightseeing trip.
Don’t forget to take some fresh local fish home with you. Our fishermen have worked hard to catch it for us. They’ll clean and prepare it for anyone who can’t bear to look at the head (too much information!) – and it’s good for you too!
Simplicity is best here, to enjoy the flavour of the scallops.
Gently fry in butter for no more than 5 minutes a side.
Add parsley, lemon juice and seasoning and toss the scallops in it.
Serve in their well-washed shells with the juices poured over, either as a starter, or accompanied by a salad, boiled new potatoes and French bread.
There are many different scallop recipes, as you can discover at the Rye Scallops Fair.
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