As enforcement officers from Marine Scotland approached a boat in the Sound of Jura in the early hours of 10 September, fishing gear was unceremoniously dumped overboard. It has since been recovered by divers and confiscated.
According to the government, the razor clams were being harvested in an area that hadn’t been licenced for shell fishing. This meant that they could be poisoned by algal toxins and hence be “unfit for human consumption”.
The raid is the latest in a concerted crackdown on the illegal multi-million pound electro-fishing business. Boats drag arrays of electrodes powered by an on-board generator across the seabed to deliver a shock that forces clams out of their burrows.
The clams then have to be collected from the seabed by divers. In recent years three divers have been killed during electro-fishing operations, with one skipper jailed in March this year for failing to properly protect a diver.
Razor clams, also known as spoots, are regarded as a gourmet delicacy, and have a soft, sweet flesh much favoured by chefs. There is a lucrative market for them across Europe and in the Far East.