West Country Mussels
CHARLESTOWN, St Austell Bay is a picturesque and hidden gem of a harbour, that can be recognised from the BBC series Poldark.
We are sitting with the boys who run the Rum Shack over-looking the bay, to where the little lights light up the mussel beds we will be visiting. We talk to the Rum-Shack boys about how we are going out with Garry tomorrow, they tell us to hold on tight! We go to bed early because although we are used to Fishmonger hours, their day starts even earlier.
When we go down to the harbour to meet Garry, in the distance we can see the mussel boat at work already, as we travel across the bay to the boat we start to see the floating barrels that are marking the area of the mussel beds. The mussel nets stretch the size of 17 football pitches. Garry tells us how he was thought daring to be taking the mussel nets out to sea, as mostly mussels are farmed in estuaries. He was told how the first storm would destroy the mussel beds, or how the mussels would get eaten by other fish and now 10 years on here they are still going from strength to strength.
We board the boat, we see the nets coming up out of the sea, the whole thing is alive with sea life, including seaweed, small baby crabs, and many more sea creatures. There is an amazing ecosystem out here that has flourished due to the cultivation of mussels, it looks and feels like the sea life that I saw as a lad. When the nets are pulled out, they are put through a machine that removes the mussels and any other sea life. It is a delicate process, so it does not damage the mussel shells. Several 1000 tons of mussels are harvested this way each year.
From the mussel beds we head to Fowey to see the processing plant, this is a small plant where the mussels are processed by putting them through a filtration system that re-oxygenates the water so it can be reused and recycled. We then watched as the mussels are graded for quality, de-bearded and packed ready to be sent to us in the fishmongers and fish retailers around the country.
Throughout this trip Garry guided us and was very informative, he is a man who has a great and clear passion for fish and the seas. He tells us of the talks he does along with renowned chefs, plus those he does with the EU. He is a man who you feel that you can put your faith in, a man who is changing fisheries and the mussel fishing industry. Working to keep the fish stocks sustainable therefore we can continue enjoying these amazing products that our oceans have to offer.
We didn’t know what to expect when we came to visit our mussel supplier, we have always loved the product and known their credentials. What we loved seeing was people working in a local community, working with the environment and to improve the future of our seas. When we eat them now we know just how special the mussels are, wishing we could be at the Rum shack and see the lights on the ropes twinkling across the bay.