Food and Drink Fortnight – Spotlight on Sconser Scallops

September 11, 2020 by No Comments | Category Aquaculture

For Food and Drink Fortnight Marine Scotland is putting the spotlight on the seafood sector and people who have been working during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In the final part of the series we speak to David Oakes of Sconser Scallops on the Isle Skye which received support through the aquaculture hardship fund. David set up his business, which involves diving to harvest king scallops, in 1987. David said:

January is always the quietest month for me so at the beginning of the year I didn’t really notice an impact on sales, but as we moved into February and March our takings were half of what they should have been and when the lockdown came in, I knew that we were going to be in trouble.

At the height of the season 85% of my time is pretty much spent harvesting and 15% stock moving however in March and April time about 60-70% of it is spent moving stock which is important as it’s what helps to get the king scallops growing to size. The harvesting and the moving make it a long-term operation so while we would have been fine for now, if we didn’t receive hardship funding it would have been difficult for us to continue moving the stocks, which would have an impact on our business in the future.

One of the hardest things for me was to continue to keep motivated to go out and move the stock, especially when I didn’t know when we’d be able to properly sell again. While I did continue to do some private sales to a few locals who were cooking nice meals for themselves, it wasn’t comparable to the sales that we were missing out on from the closure of the restaurants and hotels.

Without the hardship funding I would have struggled to know what to do – it helped to cover the costs of fuel and wages, and was an incentive for me to keep going.

We managed to start trading again in July when hospitality reopened. Even though the island has got a bit quieter and some businesses are struggling, I’m feeling more positive about the rest of the year and I’d say our August sales are in line with what we’d usually expect.

Scallop photo Credit Alison Oakes. Diving photo Credit Ben Oakes

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