A close-up view of the mouth of a scallop dredge


Scallop Dredging

As part of a series of documentary projects on local fisheries I have been photographing the work of scallop fishermen in Shetland.

The Arctic Solitaire left the Morrison dock in Lerwick at around 5.30am. I was accompanying Allan, the owner and sole crew member of the Arctic Solitaire. We headed to an area South of the isle of Bressay where Allan would spend the day towing the dredges.

It was a calm and cloudy day with little wind. A considerable swell was rolling in from the east throughout the early morning but as the day wore on this settled down.

Pushing the scallop dredges into position The main beam of the scallop dredges is lowered on to the deck so the dredges can be emptied Crew member wraps a rope around the drum end of the winch Crewman empties a scallop dredge Close up view of the dredge as it's emptied Crew member emptying a scallop dredge Scallops emptied out of the dredge Collecting scallops off the deck Emptying scallops into a bag Tying a bag of scallops

The Process

The scallop dredges are winched down to the sea bed and then towed at a slow speed in a large circle. After about an hour the scallop dredges are winched back up to the surface and brought alongside the vessel. The main beam of the scallop dredges is then lowered on to the deck so the dredges can be accessed. Each scallop dredge is then lifted by connecting it to a rope on the drum end of the winch and the scallops are emptied on to the deck. Once all of the scallop dredges have been emptied they are once again lowered to the sea bed and towing recommences.

The scallops which have been emptied on to the deck are then graded and collected. Only scallops above a certain size are kept, and the rest are put back into the sea along with other species and items collected from the sea bed. The scallops which are kept are put in baskets which are then emptied into bags

This process continued constantly throughout the day until around 8pm when we headed back to Lerwick harbour. Once alongside the pier, the bags of scallops were lifted on to the pier to be collected for processing and resale as scallop meat.

A view of the scallop boat Arctic Solitaire from the stern
Close up view of scallop shells
Crewman pushes the scallop dredges into position as they're brought alongside the vessel
Pulley used for winching the scallop dredges
A nearby scallop boat, the Kestrel, with their dredges alongside full of scallops
Crewman operating the winch to drop the scallop dredges
Close up of the winch brake being operated
A of the port side of the Arctic Solitaire from the stern