Historical part of fishing industry set to disappear

Mussel fishing at Morston with Johnny Webster. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Mussel fishing at Morston with Johnny Webster. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

A local delicacy which has been part of a nationally-renowned industry for more than 100 years looks set to disappear.

Morston mussel fishermen say they are no longer able to plant the mussel seeds and cultivate them because of increasing levels of sand and silt coming into Blakeney Harbour and the mussel beds there, causing the shellfish to wash away or die.

Mark Randell, secretary of the Blakeney Harbour Mussel Society, used to sell Morston mussels from his stall based on the roadside in Cley where he lives, as well as supplying to around 14 local eating places. He has been a Morston fisherman for 10 years, and has been joined by his son Henry, 20.

He said: 'The seabed conditions have changed dramatically in the last three years causing loss of mature and growing Mussels on the traditional Mussel beds.'

Usually the fishermen would lay two seasons ahead but Mr Randell said last season they cleared up the remaining stock they had and had not been able to plant any new seeds in April this year because of the sand.


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Mr Randell, 48, lamented the loss of the industry which he said drew people to the area and added: 'Any establishment advertising or selling Morston Mussels this year needs to explain their origin because there isn't any.'

The Morston fishermen are a small group, which includes Mr Randell, his son Henry, and Johnny Webster, 57, also from Cley, and John Dowsing, who is in his 60s, from Stiffkey. All have families who have been involved in the Morston Mussel fishing industry for years.

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Mr Dowsing, has now decided to retire, while Mr Webster has taken on a cleaning job.

Mr Webster began farming mussels in 1980 with his late father Stanley, who has an area of Blakeney Harbour, Stanley's Cockle Bight, named after him.

Mr Randell said he is trying to remain hopeful for the future, but is looking to return to his role advising on farm management. He said: 'It is a case of nature has a great way of recovering itself, but for the foreseeable future, there will not be any ground produced mussels from Blakeney.'

Trying to remain hopeful for the future, Mr Randell, said he was keeping the fishing equipment in case they would ever be able to fish the mussels again, but is looking to return to his role as a farm agronomist, advising on farm management.

He said: 'It is a case of nature has a great way of recovering itself, but for the foreseeable future, there will not be any ground produced mussels from Blakeney.'

Do you know of local industry which is danger of dying out? If so email tracey.gray@archant.co.uk

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