As part of my work, sometimes I get the opportunity to hand fish. This may be for Razors, Scallops or Urchins. This can be very rewarding and fun. I get asked for information about this by a lot of folks, so here’s an overview of it in the simplest of terms.
I find that when I am focused on the task of hunting for produce on the seabed, the time flies past and an hour underwater feels like 10mins. Depending on what we are catching depends on on the depths we are diving in. Predominately Scallops can be found in 20mtr to 30mtr, but as with anything sometimes they can be shallower and deeper, but the 20 to 30mtr is a good location to start.
When I was learning how to do this (and I still am I guess lol) in the West Coast of Scotland, I was diving with my friend Mike and we’d have the same dive time, to the same depths, and he’d have more than twice my catch. But once your eye has adjusted to the light and what to look for, it does get easier.
With the razors, these are predominantly found in the 8mtr to 15mtr range. We were using electro-fishing as part of the Marine Scotland trials, it is very effective but only when there is low winds.
My favorite is the Urchin. These are literally everywhere. Most divers have seen urchins whilst on dives. The market for these tends to be Asia. You can get these in most weather conditions and in the shallower waters making good use of longer bottom times.
All of our hand diving is controlled by the HSE ACoPs for shellfish and our teams should always be a minimum of three people. Thankfully, we don’t need any specialist equipment and normal SCUBA gear would suffice with an SMB is what we use. However, they do impose strict controls on the divers qualifications and either HSE part IV or CMAS3 is minimum for this work.
However, you do need to be licensed to catch, buy and sell shellfish fresh from the sea. Thankfully, we are a licensed buyer of first catch fish in Wales, England and Scotland. Strangely enough if you shore dive for shellfish, you don’t need any licences, but you wouldn’t be able to sell the produce commercially with out a license.
So a typical day hand fishing would be similar to the following;
- 0600hrs wake up
- 0700hrs meet at the moorings and sort the boat out
- 0730hrs ropes off
- 0830hrs dive 1 for an hour
- 0930hrs on surface sorting produce
- 1030hrs dive 2 for an hour
- 1130hrs on surface sorting produce
- 1230hrs dive 3 for an hour
- 1330hrs on surface – lunch, sorting produce
- 1500hrs dive 4 for an hour
- 1600hrs on surface – dekit – sort produce, sort boat
- 1630hrs head back to moorings
- 1730hrs arrive at moorings – unload boat, check boat
- 1800hrs gas fills, sort out any kit issues, drop produce to refrigerated transport.
- 1900hrs Day ends
And typically that would continue for a few days at a time. Here’s a selection of pictures from hand fishing over the past few months.