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Manx Queenies – everything you need to know

At The Fish House we love Manx Queenies and we know that most people do as well.

Here is pretty much everything you need to know about Manx Queenies!

Manx Queenies are fished around the Isle of Man’s waters and landed by day fished boats each evening at one of many local ports such as Peel, Port St Mary or Douglas.

Each catch is brought to one of the processing factories on the island which are found in Port St Mary and Peel.The factory cleans each vessel’s catch individually,by shucking  where they opened by hand and removed from the shell  or part of the shell with a flat metal tool queenies are briefly washed. The Queenies are then packaged accordingly either as meat or half shell.
Manx Queenies are a fast growing long lived species with a maximum lifespan that rarely exceeds five years. They reach market size of 55mm within 2-3 years depending on the available micro-algae feed from the water column. Isle of Man Queenies are not cultured or bred, their lifecycle is totally natural and their presence in the waters of the Isle of Man has been record for over 160 years.
The ‘Queenie’ name first arose as a diminutive name ‘queen scallop’ and has been widely used by the people of the Isle of Man since late 1800’s.

Manx Queenies can settle out in huge numbers, and unlike many fisheries, recruitment to the queenie fishery is very reliable, although it can still vary greatly in different years.
When the water temperatures increase the queenies rise more readily in the water column when disturbed by the net, making them easier to capture.The Isle of Man’s main Queenies season traditionally starts on the 1st June when vessels switch from the winter dredge fishery for great scallops (Pecten maximus). In years with low water temperature however the season may not start until the middle or late June.
When harvesting the fishermen use a light 80mm gauge net, which ensures minimum impact on the Queenie and minimal contact with the seabed. The practise of using the 80mm net ensures the Queenies are mature when harvested, being between a minimum age of two to three years old. This method allows for younger smaller Queenies to pass through the net thus ensuring the regeneration and sustainability of the Queenie beds. The Manx Queenies occur in the highest densities in and around Queenie beds, these are natural, wild fishery areas found on the seabed.
The vessels, light demersal trawls, currently used are very similar to those used when the industry first began in 1969. Queenies are fished by ‘day boats’. No fishing with trawls for Isle of Man Queenies takes place between 20.00 and 06.00 hours, as governed by the Sea Fisheries (Queen Scallop Fishing) Byelaws 2010.

Capture in demersal trawls ensures the Queenies are alive when landed, with no grit inside and minimum shell damage. Currently motorized fishing vessels varying in size between 10m – 16.5m are used to fish for queenies, although smaller boats can be used. The light 80 mm mesh nets are towed on warps (strong steel cables) from the stern of the vessel. The net passes over the seabed and is kept open by trawl doors that use water pressure, to pull the net apart. A rubber covered rope (the foot rope) makes contact with the seabed, and queenies react to this rope by swimming up off the seabed into the path of the net. The trawl lasts between 1-2 hours at a speed of 1 knot; the net is then hauled onto the deck of the vessel and lowered into the vessel by the crew. Mechanical winches are used to haul and shoot these nets.
The fished Queenies are sorted immediately after capture either by hand, or passed through a small mechanical grader and washer set to grade at no less than 55mm and the catch bagged, generally into 38kg sacks, although bag weights are not mandatory. Undersized or poor quality Queenies are returned to the sea alive- research has indicated that they subsequently have very high survival rates. The skipper samples until a quality bed is discovered. Queenies are assessed by size and a sample will be opened to ensure both meat and roe meet the quality requirements.
Manx Queenies are hermaphrodites. The Queenies ripen for spawning two or three times a year depending on water temperature and feeding conditions. They simultaneously release eggs and sperm into the surrounding water and fertilization is external. The presence of eggs and sperm in the water stimulates other queens to spawn. Fertilized eggs develop into a larva that rises up into the water column, and passes through a series of larval stages, feeds by filtering phytoplankton. After a month in the water column, larva develop a shell and settle on the sea bed or onto other species growing above suitable seabed habitat. Although initially attached to substrate by a byssal thread (a filament used by molluscs to attach themselves to rocks, substrates or the sea bed) the individual soon becomes a free living adult.

The Gulf Stream moderates the Island’s climate which benefits from a warming temperature that provides a temperate climate. Summers tend to be cool and fairly sunny, while the winters are mild and wet with very little frost and snow.
The Isle of Man Queenie is fished in extensive beds within the Manx Territorial Sea. Queenies have distinct habitat preferences and live in aggregated distributions (beds) around the Isle of Man, their relative immobility has resulted in the comparatively unchanged geographical position of the beds. Beds may be permanent aggregations, precise in their location and separated by clearly demarked areas that are unsuitable for scallops.
The combination of environmental conditions – water quality, temperature, strong tidal flows and availability of suitable planktonic food, mean that Queenie densities in the Isle of Man Territorial Sea are consistently high, and that the fast growing meats produced are particularly succulent.
Queenie beds have been documented in the Isle of Man for many generations. Early references to the occurrence of abundant populations of queen scallops around the Isle of Man are cited in Marine Forna of the Isle of Man (Moore, 1937). There are a limited number of major areas within the geographical range where population is sufficiently abundant to support a commercial fishery. Such areas or grounds are usually widely separated by areas that are environmentally unsuitable for the species. Within each ground there are usually a number of regions or beds which can be of an area of several km2, where scallop abundance is higher than elsewhere.

The Queenie beds in the Manx territorial sea are surrounded by high quality waters in respect of both organic and inorganic pollutants. Basic environmental sampling of seawaters off the Isle of Man extends back to the early twentieth century. As scientific advances progressed further environmental and biological parameters have been monitored and presently the Isle of Man government monitors many variables including nutrients, bacteria, phytoplankton and phytoplankton toxins.
The tidal range around the Isle of Man is the greatest in Western Europe. This tidal range, coupled with the relatively shallow seabed surrounding the Island, means that exceptionally strong tides flow around the Isle of Man. Whilst presenting unique challenges to fishermen using light trawls, these tides also mean that Isle of Man Queenies have a constant source of planktonic food sweeping past them, assisting their fast growth rates, and distribution of their planktonic larval stage.
The Isle of Man can demonstrate consistently, high water quality standards with scientific research that dates back to 1904. These standards meet the European environmental quality objectives.

Fishing has been a traditional industry in Isle of Man, with herring fishing well established and organised in the 1500’s. Queenie fishing originally started in the mid 1800’s when they were used as bait in long line fishing for cod.
During this time queenie beds provided a prolific feeding ground for the shoals of Cod. As fish stocks diminished in the 1960’s, Manx fishermen began to explore the possibility of fishing for queenies. In 1969 the first commercially caught queenies were landed in Peel and quickly became recognised as a delicacy.
The island’s Queenie beds have been extended names such as: Lower and higher Chickens, Warts Bank and Burrow Head.

The Manx fishing fleet extended to approximately 60 vessels in 1971 with a peak in production being recorded at this time of approximately 7,500 tonnes (caught live weight). The majority of this catch was exported directly to America.
In the early 80’s the Isle of Man began to create new markets in France and Spain, for which queenie was sold as a ‘roe on’ product. At the present time queenies are sold to markets in the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain. Processors are looking for entrance into new prolific quality markets on a continual basis.

The first Manx marine biologist Edward Forbes became world renowned for his study of seabed populations. Of the Queenie (which he referred to as Pecten opercularis as they did at that time) he wrote “frequent, being the chief inhabitants of the scallop banks”. He also states that Pecten opercularis are “used for food when cooked”. (Forbes, 1838)
There is strong evidence to suggest that the Queenie grounds are self sustaining, this is discussed in detail by Sinclair et al (Sinclair, 1985) evidence for Aequipecten opercularis, Pecten maximus and Placopecten magellanicus. They note that, for each of these species, the major fishing grounds are relatively few in number, of characteristic absolute abundance, precise in their geographical location and have been persistent in these locations for very long periods, all of which, they believe, strongly implies that the populations on these grounds are self-sustaining. (Sinclair, 1985).

And after that if you like eating them there will be other posts about how to cook them!

 

1 Comment
  1. Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Queenie are a great tasting food

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