Dredging up oysters in the River Colne. [DW]
The Colne Fishery Company smack NATIVE hauls alongside an oyster skiff to dump thousands of slipper limpets dredged from the oyster grounds in the course of a tide's work. The limpets are a pest which was imported to Essex with shipments of American Bluepoint oysters for re-laying in English waters, and severely diminished oyster stocks. There are other pests affecting oysters, including tingle borers and whelks.
Severe winters have the greatest effect on oysters, which thrive in comparatively shallow water. Prolonged freezing and resultant ice can almost wipe out oyster grounds, as happened to the Colne Fishery in 1962, leading to its re-stocking under private enterprise. Men working 'in the river' for the Colne Fishery Company had to be freemen of the company or 'free of the river' as it was locally termed; a privilege which several hundred enjoyed, giving them prospect of a winter occupation and return in times when poverty was never far from the watersidesw. It was maintained in families in jealous regard, eventually resulting in many freement who had been 'apprenticed' to the company in name only, only a handful of them actually working on the fishery, which declined after 1914.
The NATIVE keeps her mainsail set, with the foresail and jib run down. The triced-up bobstay suggests she intends to anchor when the despised limpets are unloaded. [JL]
Plate.125 in SWW.
Used in The Sailor's Coast, page 46.
Published in East Anglian magazine Feb1956.
Fishing registration appears to be CK406.