Hi Martin Higgins, CEO of safefood here, I’m just muscling in on the blog space while Dermot is still away. When I get time away from my job here, I like to spend it doing something I love… fishing. The fact that I am absolutely useless at it does not put me off in the slightest. Such is my prowess that, if we lived in a hunter/gatherer community, my family would starve.
So, imagine my delight when I was given the opportunity of taking a trip on a commercial boat in Carlingford Lough. Rod and tackle would be supplied, we would not be going out into the open sea – (yes, I get sea sick) – and the skipper would use all his fisherman’s intuition and impressive array of electronic gadgetry to “put us into mackerel”. Apparently, you can almost walk across the Lough at this time of year without getting wet, there are that many fish there.
Guess what? I didn’t catch any! The mackerel had legged it – or is that finned it? – out of the Lough, probably on a day trip to the Isle of Man or somewhere.
Instead I was treated to a close-up look at a mussel farming operation – one of several in Carlingford Lough - and a treat it certainly was. When we think of fish farming we often think of floating cages in bays or freshwater ponds, but here we have a natural sustainable fishery. The mussels do what mussels do; sit on the seabed eating plankton. There is no negative environmental impact; in fact the mussel farms increase the Lough’s biodiversity.
Nowadays, shellfish is often thought of as being only for gourmets and foodies. It wasn’t always the case of course – whelks, winkles and cockles were traditional treats fare in all Victorian seaside towns, and Dublin’s Molly Malone sold cockles and mussels from her cart to the poor of Dublin.
And, apparently, mussels are very good for you (so the nutritionists here at safefood tell me). They are low in fat, a good source of selenium, zinc, iodine and copper and good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids – the stuff that helps you take care of your heart! They are really simple to cook, I like them boiled with garlic, onion and a little white wine. In fact most fish are very simple to cook and we really should be eating more.
But back to the mussels, the most important thing for me is that they make great fishing bait. So as soon as those mackerel get back from their holidays in the Isle of Man …
I’d like to thank Brian Cunningham, safefood Board Member, for facilitating this very informative trip to his mussel farm in Carlingford Lough.