Ranger and a hand hauled dredge
Photo: Kate Cornish
For centuries, Cornish families have derived their livelihood from oyster dredging in the Carrick Roads and surrounding rivers. Many of the oyster boats, known as Falmouth Working Boats were built at boatyards around the Fal, with some of the oldest boats in the Oyster Fishery dating back as far as 1860. Alf Smythers was in fact one of the last wooden boats, designed by Percy Dalton, specifically for use on these oyster beds.
It could be perceived that dragging a metal dredge accross the seabed would be destructive, however the seabed is not a coral reef, it is a silty muddy sandy estuary bed that has been rotivated for hundreds of years.
The ecology and marine life found in the shallow warm waters are fantastic. We have hauled in many tiny creatures and 99.999999% survive and are immediately returned, but the majority tend to move out of the way when they see the cloud of silt and we only want the oysters that are grounded!
Our dredge is merely a 3ft (1m) frame with a 'Bit' or 'Knife' that scoops the grounded bivalve and mostly shell or 'Cultch' into a net.
After our Oyster Gatherings we return the shells to the seabed ensuring the cultch doesn't disappear.
The cultch make excellent feeding grounds for
shrimps and crabs, they feed the Mackerel and Bass and so on... we all fish responsibly and the fact all these creatures come back each year means Mother
Nature appreciates it!
Katerina - J. Bailey
Photo: Terry Tempest
By Sail: The fishing method uses small dredges which are towed by the tide across the sea bed. Following historic and traditional methods the dredges are towed by sailing or rowing boats and there is no motor power used to gather Fal Oysters. Considerable skill is required in sailing the vessel at the same time as working the dredges. The dredges are hauled up by hand.
Oyster Punt - Dave
Photo: Terry Tempest
By Oar: At the chosen spot, drop an anchor and a bouy over the bow, row astern and lower the dredge over the stern then haul yourself forward using the handle. Once at the bouy, haul in the dredge and cull out on the cultch board. Shovel the unwanted cultch or shells and start again.
This method is unique and
is not repeated anywhere else in the world.