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Free-dived scallops caught on a single breath

26th October 2021

Sourcing the right produce is key for Head Chef of the Angel Elly Wentworth. Her attention to detail and wish for the best quality ingredients for her superbly crafted dishes has led her to Jamie Kirkaldy, who has formed Greenstraight Scallops, the only seafood purveyor in the UK to harvest wild scallops through freediving. Each scallop is caught on a single breath of air. In a time where our customers are so much more aware of the quality, sustainability and provenance of our food, there is no purer way to source scallops than this.

The story of Greenstraight Scallops

Having been free diving since he was 12, Jamie Kirkaldy went on to represent New Zealand in spearfishing before pursuing a career that took him freediving across the world’s oceans.

After settling with his family in South Devon, it was on a dive off the coast of Start Bay, that he discovered the possibility of using the dives to hand pick Atlantic King Scallops (native to the region). Realising that it was not a method of sourcing the coveted shellfish that anyone in the area (or England for that matter) was currently using commercially, he set out to provide a selection of the UK’s most discerning restaurants with the most environmentally friendly scallops available.

Bringing his passion, skill, and family traditions together, he refurbished, relicensed, and rehabilitated his father-in-law’s traditional 30-year-old fishing boat, and now provides scallops, caught the old-fashioned way - on a single breath of air from the South Hams coast near Start Bay.

The drop: how Greenstraight Scallops are caught

Freediving is one of the purest ways to explore the ocean. No air tanks, no clever equipment; just a big pair of fins, take a deep breath and fall through the water to around 50 or 60ft.

For Jamie, it’s a pivotal moment that brings him in harmony with the natural world. Having relaxed on the surface of the water, his first kicks take him around a third of his target depth. At that point he goes into free-fall for approximately 10 seconds, before arriving in a rich world of sea life populated by sea sponges, soft corals, seaweed, fish, and of course, scallops.

Having selected the most suitable scallops, he returns to the surface before diving again. As he delivers his scallops to order, he repeats the process until he has just enough, gathering no more than he needs. He keeps the scallops in the water until the very last minute, when he chills them and then delivers them straight to the door of his clients the same or very next day. There’s every chance they will still be clacking on arrival!

Why freediving is so sustainable?

Approximately 98% of scallops available for sale are landed through dredging, which is the equivalent of dropping an enormous bulldozer blade and scraping it across the seabed as far as the eye can see. This decimates everything in its path, and in locations such as Lyme Bay in Dorset, a swim under water will show you a clear line between an underwater forest of lush vegetation and sea life, alongside a muddy desert where all the commercially viable scallops have been harvested. The by-catch of this process is significant, and the damage from ploughing the seabed means that it reaches a state where it can struggle to regenerate.

The problems with this way of sourcing shellfish are well known and as a result, many leading restaurants have opted to use hand dived scallops instead. This makes up around 2% of the current harvest, and sees scuba divers hand pick scallops. The benefit of this, is that they don’t disrupt the seabed and there isn’t any bycatch. However, they tend to target whole areas, and can easily clear them of mature scallops in a short space of time, which still presents ecological issues.

Freediving is really not a commercial way of doing things, but it is the most beneficial for the environment whilst sourcing the tastiest, organic shellfish. By the pure nature of being in this deep-water column, with the current moving around, it’s almost impossible to hit the same spot twice. Even if Jamie dropped a weight in these tides, it wouldn’t make a difference! By gathering his catch on a single breath, there are only so many scallops he can take at once, so he will never clear an area. As mentioned, he also catches to order, so he never takes more than he needs.

Furthermore, by using a single, small fishing boat and back to basics processes, Jamie minimises his carbon footprint, minimises sea floor disturbance, and he manages the resource so it can regenerate. In his words ‘it’s just a boat, me and a single breath of air for every scallop.

You can enjoy Greenstraight Scallops and taste the difference when you dine with us here at the Angel.

Visit our website now to book!

To find out more about Jamie and Greenstraight Scallops visit his instagram

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