********** Yoshinori Ishii Executive chef of Japanese restaurant UMU in London ******************

------------------ 英国の日本料理店 UMU 総料理長 石井義典 のつれづれなる話 ------------

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Traditional fishing at the River Severn 、Severn 川での伝統鮭漁

Not too long ago, our supplier for eel fry and wild Atlantic salmon, Dai, had taken me to see authentic Welsh fishing as well as elver fishing at The River Severn. My wish to also see traditional salmon fishing at his turf – the River Severn – ever since our conversation in his car has finally come true.
The River Severn is the longest river in the United Kingdom, which springs in Wales and flows into Bristol in England. Its outfall forms a giant cove together with nearby Bristol Channel, the river itself is massive in width and has the World’s 2nd greatest tidal variation. The difference in water level between at ebb and high tide on the day of spring tide reaches impressive 15 meters. Looking down from a bridge on A40, you see a gigantic estuaryr at full tide, which transforms into spacious tidal flats at ebb tide.
My guide this time around was Horace Cook, a father of Richard, CEO of Severn & Wye Smokery, where Dai acts as an ambassador. Since the foundation of the company, Richard and him have predominantly dealt locally caught salmon and eel fry as well as those caught in Wales or suburbs of Bristol, cities with good transporting connection to Gloucester where the company situates. While the main focus is to produce smoked products from eel or salmon, their business is highly diversified, extends to being a fishmonger, a restaurateur and farming eel fry. There’s also a successful project, which we were lucky enough to participate once, to use hands of local kids to release farmed eel elvers into a lake in Wales every year, where the specie is already extinct. All drainage, a byproduct of a processing plant, is sprinkled at the company’s farm, encouraging healthy and rapid growth of pasture, allowing 4 harvests a year.
For a river that is remarkably wide, a pathway leading to the fishing spot where baits contrived for salmon is so narrow that a car can barely pass. The scenery suddenly opens up and changes to a view of estuary lying right in front of your eyes. The width is so extensive that a sense of distance to the opposite bank becomes lost, and turbid water continues to flow tirelessly, both like a river stream and tidal stream. The water is reddish-brown in colour due to strong current constantly coming and going simultaneously with the rise and fall of tide. How salmon manages to unmistakably swim upstream in such condition is still a mystery.
A method used in salmon fishing is called putcher fishing; cone-shaped baskets are set between stakes placed 20 meters from the shoulder of the river, facing upper stream. Salmon, before heading upstream, hovers in brackish water zone for some time, in order to familiarise and become able to shift from seawater to fresh water. A head of salmon is trapped in the cone-shaped basket as it enters the contrived device while swimming downwards to the sea along powerful oceanic current, simply becomes unable to exit due to heavy force generated by stream from behind. 
A question arose while observing; Why the device is set only 20 meters away from the bank of the river when its width exceeds few hundreds meters. According to Horace, Salmon, naturally led by southwesterly winds, swims back and forth between the immense ocean and its birth-river, and its downward route towards the sea is commonly within a whisker of the bank on this side of river. Horace also believes only sufficient number of salmon should be caught, not to sweep up all trafficking fish.
Salmon is a creature with many mysteries including a unique behaviour to return to its birthplace as a full-grown fish after crossing the sea while growing, yet also very high in locality, developing relationships with diverse endemic human kinds all around the world.

A legend or a folklore regarding salmon exists everywhere and always a delight to encounter. Contemporary version of the putcher fishing’s basket is metallic, as oppose to an original basket made out of twigs of indigenous plants of Britain picked from the hedge. By tracing back the family-line of current fishermen, a data will prove the ancestors fished at exact same spot as far back as 400 years ago, and a record also shows this particular fishing tradition dates back to the Roman era.
Horace says the current Salmon fishing licence at the River Severn given by the British authority only retains its validity until the end of this generation and will not be passed on to the next. Dai regularly mentions overall numbers of upstreaming salmon in the river almost reaching the standard of old days, as well as natural resource is recovering in good rate. It is saddening that, nonetheless, a tradition with hundreds of years of history will be lost, in the good name of pro-environmental movement.

Severn川はウェールズを源とし、イングランドのBristol 近くに流れ込む英国で最も長い河川です。河口付近はブリストルチャネルから続く非常に大きな入り江になっており、広大な川幅と世界第二位の干満差があります。大潮の日は干潮と満潮の水面差が15メートルにもなるそうで、国道A40にかかる橋から川を見下ろすと満潮時は大河となっており、干潮時は大きく干潟が広がっています。
今回はDai氏がAmbassadorを務める会社、Severn & Wye smokery の社長、Richardのお父さんHorace Cook氏に案内をしてもらいました。彼は会社を起こしてからRichardと共に近郊で獲れる鮭、稚鰻、また、会社のあるGloucesterが交通の要であることから、主にWalesやブリストル近郊などで獲れる魚でビジネスをしてきました。鰻や鮭の燻製をメインに作っていながら、鮮魚の販売、レストラン経営、稚鰻の育成など多岐にわたります。以前私たちも参加した育成した稚鰻を既に絶滅してしまったWalesの湖に子供たちの手によって毎年放流し続ける事業も成功させています。魚の処理施設から出た排水は全て自社の農場に撒き、そこで育てた牧草は発育がよく、年4回の収穫ができるそうです。
鮭漁の仕掛けはPutcher fishingと呼ばれ、バスケットと呼ばれる円錐形の籠が川岸から約20mほどの間に立てられた杭の間に複数上流を向けて備え付けられていました。鮭は川に登る前に汽水域でしばらくの間少しずつ海水から淡水に体をなじませるために行ったりきたりするそうですが、強い海流と共に海に下る最中ににその仕掛けの中に体が入ると円錐形の籠に頭をとられ、後方からの流れに押されて逃げ出すことができなくなるようになっているという極めてシンプルなものでした。
見ると同時に沸いてきた疑問は“なぜ何百メートルもある川の中で川岸からほんの20mほどに仕掛けを掛けるのか?”ということでした。Horace 氏曰く、“鮭は南西の風の方向を選んで大きな海、生まれた川を行き来する。海に下る時に通る道筋は川の中でも常にこちら岸すれすれになる。また、川を通る魚を獲るのも全てを獲ってしまうのではなく、自分達に必要なだけ取れればいい。”とのことでした。
Horace 氏の話では現在、英国の政府から与えられているSevern川での鮭漁のライセンスは今の漁師の代で最後となり、次の世代には受け継がれないそうです。Dai氏にいつも聞いていますが川全体の鮭の遡上数は昔の水準まで戻ってきており、資源は回復しているにもかかわらず、環境保護などの観点から折角何百年も続いた伝統を絶やすことは悲しいことです。