FISHING THE COAST ‘I remember my first time in a boat – I went line fishing and loved the sense of space, openness and isolation,’ the land rock close to the shore, and also the rock edge of the Continental Shelf which is about six miles out to sea for crabs. On this particular morning they set off at 4am and return around lunch time, bearing a mix of lobsters - and crab which are sold onward to shellfish merchants and to fishermen to sell on. ‘Whilst I only sell lobsters we try help each other out,’ says Bob. ‘There is a good community here. We all know it’s tough, but we’re all in the same boat, if you’ll pardon the pun, and we all have the future of the fishing industry at heart. Our approach to sustainably sourced lobster ensures that stocks in the Yorkshire seas are well cared for. I won’t sell ‘Berried Hens’ lobsters that are carrying eggs. A lobster will reach it’s mating maturity long before it is legal for it to be caught, so we always take care when handling our lobsters. Sustainability is at the heart of our business, now and for future generations.’ The future of the lobster may be looking rosier thanks to people like Bob, but he still has an uphill challenge to convince the British public that this succulent shellfish is as accessible and affordable as a decent steak. ‘A lot of people think they are too expensive and difficult to prepare, but it’s all a myth,’ he says. ‘The reality is that while 95% of our lobsters go to Spain and France, people here are only just waking up to the fact that our seas are full of fantastic, delicious, easy to cook shellfish like lobster.’ Bob is certainly on a mission to bridge the gap between sea and plate, calling himself ‘the little fella’ who supplies fresh seafood directly to the table – often via the gastro pubs whose chefs are queuing up to buy his daily catches. ‘I want to make these changes to help improve the lives and livelihoods of our local fishing community,’ he says. The Yorkshire shellfish industry is one of the finest in the world, with Bridlington being the biggest shellfishing port in Europe and Scarborough the second largest. ‘It’s a bit of a struggle getting support from our local authority,’ says Bob. ‘Revenue from catches makes a valuable contribution to exports and the economy. Sadly it’s not really recognised locally. We have to work together and stand up for what we believe in. Fishing has been a part of our heritage for hundreds of years and we must fight for its future.’ It’s Bob’s way of bringing his seafaring family history full circle. And it’s that history which also inspired the name of his boat, the Capernaum. His mother was a direct descendant of two crew members who perished in May 1894 when the yawl ‘Capernaum’ was run down off Flamborough, just south of Scarborough, by the barque ‘Polynesian’, with the loss of all hands. After a brief search for survivors, the Polynesian carried on to Brazil with her cargo of coal before the incident was finally reported. A subsequent inquiry led to the suspension of the ship’s master and chief officer. Local memorials to Bob’s lost descendants are a salutory reminder of the perils of the industry – and the reason why he can’t ignore the lure of the sea. ‘I remember my first time in a boat – I was 12 and the boat was called ‘Golden Crest. I went line fishing and loved the sense of space, openness and isolation,’ says Bob. ‘My grandfather was spitting feathers when I got home; but I loved it. I knew then that it was in my blood. It took me a long time to recognise it and to turn it into a living, but now it’s not only my job – it’s a way of life.’ BELOW: Bob Roberts runs an artisan business, The Yorkshire Lobster Company, from modest premises on West Pier in Scarborough – identified by the distinctive logo on the door BELOW RIGHT: The claw is full of juicy meat when cooked RIGHT: The lobsters turn a bright orange/ red once they are cooked Lobster trivia Lobsters do not have vocal chords. No one has yet found a way to determine the exact age of a lobster. However, based on scientific knowledge of body size at age, the maximum age attained may approach 100 years. The teeth of the lobster are in its stomach, which is a very short distance from the mouth A freshly laid lobster egg is the size of the head of a pin They can grow to be 3 feet or more in overall body length. When the eggs hatch, the larvae will float near the surface for 4 to 6 weeks. The few that survive will settle to the bottom and continue to develop as baby lobsters. Lobsters possess two stomachs, and have been known to eat each other. Lobsters were once so plentiful that they could easily be caught right at the shore and were eaten mainly by poor people. From every 50,000 eggs only 2 lobsters are expected to survive to legal size. 94 Yorkshire Life: October 2020
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