Mussel Farming, the Environment and me.........
I was recently asked if it is possible to be a fisherman, make a decent living, enhance the environment and be happy?
Yes, it is. Making the transition from fisherman to mussel farmer was the best decision I ever made. Being able to control stock levels and plan for the future has given me the time and confidence to invest in boats, equipment and staff and adopt practises that work within the natural cycles of the river.
Every autumn we compete with the starfish and the winter storms to save as much mussel seed as we can. This is then laid in beds safe within the estuary on land rented from Lord Devon. Over the following two years, as these beds mature, there is a massive positive effect on all the organisms that live in and benefit from a diverse habitat such as a mussel bed. We turn what is in effect an underwater desert into a rainforest.
As all our processes are sequential there are always new beds being sown to replace mature ones being harvested. Everyone benefits: the birds, the fish, the crabs and everything that moves and crawls and is looking for somewhere to hide. Add to that all the bait gatherers and fishermen that rely on a vibrant and diverse eco-system and you can see that, with a sense for nature, you can interact without interfering.
Once the mussels are full size they are harvested with our hovering water-jet elevator and put into purification tanks in our unit on Exmouth pier. Forty two hours later, and with a bit of polishing they are ready for chefs up and down the land.
The secret to success is adding as much value to the product as possible by doing the whole process in-house, never letting the customers down and being polite but firm with the accounting.
This policy has enabled me to attract and keep a highly trained and motivated team, which is the core of the business. So the secret to being a happy fisherman? Work with nature, cut out the middleman, give everyone a stake in their future and pray for good weather........Myles Blood Smyth.