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Sunday, 15 December, 2002, 13:36 GMT
Fishermen pin hopes on Japanese
Ormer
Ormers sell for more than 16,000 a ton in Japan
A Japanese delicacy could provide a huge boost to the struggling South West fishing industry.

Trials to cultivate ormers have been taking place during the past year off the coasts of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.

A special co-operative is soon to be launched which aims to farm commercially the cousins of the common garden snail.

The ormers will be sold as far afield as Japan, potentially bringing a huge financial boost to the struggling fishing fleet.

Ormer
Ormers' shells have a mother-of-pearl lining
Shrinking fish stocks and stringent European Union quotas have seen many South West fishermen go out of business.

But the ormers' white, meaty flesh is selling for more than 16,000 a ton in Japan.

Their high commercial value also means that fewer need to be harvested to make a profit.

Eddy Derriman, of the Cornwall Sea Fisheries Committee said: "It could have a really significant effect on the employment situation.

"To do nothing in the present economic climate will mean we go the other way and fishermen will be out of work.

"For every fisherman's jobs in Cornwall, there are another four jobs ashore."

Channel Islanders have been eating ormers for years, but they are still relatively unknown in mainland Britain.

Fisherman at work
Work is already underway to farm ormers
A member of the gastropod family, the ormers seem to be thriving in South West waters.

Marine environmental scientist Andrew Fitzgerald said: "The main reason the ormer has done well in the South West is that the water temperature is comparable to those of its home waters in the Channel Islands.

"It therefore grows equally well as it does naturally.

"We also have an abundance of seaweed for it to feed on and the water quality is good."

There are concerns, however, that the introduction of a foreign species to South West waters could damage existing marine life.

Roger Covey, of English Nature, said: "It's akin to having a piece of grassland that hasn't seen sheep grazing on it, then introducing a vast herd to it and expecting the vegetation to stay the same.

"There would obviously be a change."


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See also:

14 Dec 02 | England
13 Dec 02 | England
23 Jul 02 | Scotland
28 May 02 | England
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