The main types of white fish that are now caught out of Whitstable harbour are sole, skate and bass. Locally based trawlers for these fish include ‘Lisa Marie’, ‘Charlie Boy’ and ‘Our Sarah Jane’. Other local boats include ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Tradewinds’. The fishermen use gill nets for sole and bass. ‘Suivera’ is a multi-purpose dredger and trawler. Part of the catch landed in Whitstable supplies local restaurants and retailers. A greater part is sold in other markets in the south east and exported to northern France.
Other local specialities include cockles and whelks. Cockles are harvested by specialised suction dredgers. Look out for ‘Oly Ray’ and ‘Cardium II’ in the harbour. Cardium Shellfish, the principal company in this field, has a flourishing cockle export trade to continental Europe. Whelks are caught in pots on the sea bed by West Whelks. The West family are third and fourth generation having fished from Whitstable harbour since 1901. Lobster and crabs are caught off Tankerton and Swalecliffe, mainly for the local market.
The shallow waters of the Thames estuary have long been fertile territory for the fishing industry. The flow of brackish water from the streams and marshes of the north Kent coast makes a particularly beneficial environment for oysters and other shellfish. The Whitstable area was famed for oyster production in Roman times. Contemporary records show that oysters were exported to Rome itself in the first century AD. The boom years of the Victorian era, when dozens of oyster dredgers were based in Whitstable, are over but the oyster fishery has made a comeback in recent years.
Oysters, either the famous Whitstable Native, which is seasonal, or the Pacific oyster, which is year round, are both dredged wild in local waters and cultivated on sections of the sea bed owned by local oyster companies. ‘Misty’ is the main oyster dredger currently operating from the harbour.
Whitstable Harbour and the surrounding coastal areas host many exciting species of bird and sea life throughout the year. The rich coastal areas provide a valuable habitat in which this wildlife can thrive. Many migratory birds return to the Whitstable coast to breed year after year.
Birds such as skylark, meadow pipit and yellow wagtail are just some of the most common breeding dry-land species found in the area. Gulls and turnstones are commonly seen around the harbour.
The sandbanks, about six miles from the harbour, offer an ideal breeding ground for seals. They can often be seen enjoying the waters and the sun on specially run boat trips. If you’re lucky, you may even see the baby seals at the right time of year, or any that swim into the harbour from time to time.
Published: Friday 29 September
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Published: Monday 25 September
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