Saturday, April 08, 2006

The shrimper

click photo to enlarge
Food fanatics will trawl resaurants, travel the earth, and spend whatever it takes to satisfy their epicurean tastes. But often such people, whilst being familiar with the produce of far-flung shores, know little of their local foods.

Anyone living in the vicinity of Morecambe Bay should have tried the small brown shrimps that can be found there. I remember, as a child, travelling from the Yorkshire Dales to Morecambe on steam trains pulled by "Black 5s", and buying portions of this delicacy from promenade vendors. They were delicious. What I didn't know at the time was how they were caught.

The original method, and the one still favoured by individuals who fancy a few shrimps, or who sell to friends and family, involves a "push-net" like the one shown in the photograph above. This is pushed through the shallows, scraping up the shrimps and sand. The sand washes through the holes of the net back into the sea, and the larger pieces - shrimps, crabs, pebbles, etc, are funnelled into a net container at the end. This is emptied and the catch sorted, with the additional use of a circular sieve, if necessary. As the catching of these shrimps became more commercially attractive larger versions of the push-net were fixed to carts with horses pulling them through the water. The catch was sent to various markets throughout England. Today, tractors with nets on swinging arms are used in the shallow waters of the Bay. This catch is often peeled at Flookburgh and then sent to a factory at Ulverston for processing. They are sold as Morecambe Bay Potted Shrimps. Look out for them!

I took this photograph of a shrimper at Fleetwood on the edge of the Bay. He was at work with a colleague, often up to their waists in the sea, methodically harvesting their catch. The bright yellow of the waterproof gives a modern visual "bite" to this shot of someone still plying an ancient craft.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen