From pot to plate: Part 3

The Landing Companies

isc landing
Landing lobster, Independent Shellfishermen’s Co-operative. Photo: Forgaard Agency

There are multiple people and businesses involved in getting Bridlington Bay Lobster from the sea-floor pot to the dining table plate. Some roles are well known and understood and others are relatively unfamiliar – like landing companies. But these businesses play a crucial part in getting the lobster to market at the right time, for the right price and in the right condition and so are key to our story.

Meet the bridlington shellfish co. ltd

Paula Sayer of Bridlington Shellfish Co. Ltd. Photo: Forgaard Agency
jo fryer
Jo Fryer of Bridlington Shellfish Co. Ltd. Photo: Forgaard Agency

The Bridlington Shellfish Company office sits opposite the landing quay at Bridlington and is run by Jo Fryer and Paula Sayer. From their desks they can see the boats coming in, the catch being unloaded and the lorries arriving to collect the lobster. They have a view of the whole process which is important because, like the other two landing companies in Bridlington, their job is to get the lobster to market as quickly as possible and so they need to be aware of everything going on.

Lobster is landed as a live product, so time is of the essence. With buyers to find, prices to negotiate, quality and quantity to be checked, transport to arrange and payment to be sorted, the process can be unfeasible for a boat landing a small catch of lobster. Landing companies act as a cooperative for their members (who are generally skippers and boat owners), allowing boats of all sizes to combine their catch and sell it at the best price. The boats then have a guaranteed market for their catch, regardless of quantity, and they can also hand over the administration and paperwork to Jo and Paula. Which leaves the crew to focus on fishing.

what does a landing company do?

Jo and Paula pride themselves on offering as much – or as little – as their individual members want. As well as finding buyers for the lobster they can also supply the bait for the lobster and crab pots, diesel for the boats and chandlery items, plus provide a bookkeeping and payroll services. It’s a one-stop shop for the fleet – and the ladies’ previous experience in accountancy and fishing makes them well-suited to the job.

Independent Shellfishermen’s Co-operative & buyer Photo: Forgaard Agency

a typical week

The fishing community week runs from Friday to Thursday – but that is the only constant. With so many variables, including the tide times which dictate when the boats come back into harbour, this isn’t a predictable 9-5 way of working. But the list of jobs and responsibilities stays the same.

Jo and Paula and their team ensure their bait stocks are sufficient and manage its distribution to those members who want it. Once the boats are at sea, there is ongoing communication with the skippers to understand what quantity of lobster and crab is likely to be landed and when.

Chris Kingston is the Bridlington Shellfish Company pier manager and he monitors the market, ensuring he knows the price of the catch up and down the country – and even what quantity of catch is being landed in other ports. He liaises with potential buyers, from Bridlington to Billingsgate and beyond, negotiating prices for the different species, grades and quantities and sorting the plentiful paperwork.

Bridlington Shellfish Company Ltd pier staff: Photo: Forgaard Agency

When the boats return to harbour, the catch is landed to the quayside and Chris and the team take over. The lobster are graded, weighed, logged and then transferred to tanks where they have a short period to ‘relax’. The buyers, who have already been secured by Chris, are told when their lobster is ready for collection and  the paperwork is taken over to Jo and Paula, who record what every boat has landed and who their catch has been sold to. This paperwork is vital because the traceability of each Bridlington Bayblobster is essential and stays with the lobster throughout.

After 24 hours the lobster have relaxed, the tanks are emptied (known as ‘dropped’) and the lorries arrive to transport the lobster on the next stage of their journey.

settling day

In the 1950s, fishermen in Grimsby and Hull were often referred to as three-day millionaires. After three weeks on the trawlers, they returned to the docks and were paid on a Friday. They then set about spending their wages (‘settlings’)  before returning to sea on Monday. They would splash out on meals and gifts and were known for their eye-catching clothing, often wearing suits made of bright colours and extravagant amounts of cloth, in a demonstration of their wealth.

You’re unlikely to see the suits these days, but Friday remains the most important day in the Bridlington Bay week and is still known as Settling Day. Costs and sales are calculated and payments are made to the skippers and crew.

Bridlington bay lobster, enjoyed worldwide

The landing companies may send the lobster to Billingsgate market where it is bought by hotels, restaurants and wholesalers, or to companies who cook and pack it for retail, or it may be exported to Europe. Wherever it goes, the landing companies are key to securing the fishermen a buyer and a fair price and allowing the world beyond Bridlington to enjoy our superb lobster.

The Bridlington landing companies are; Bridlington Shellfish Company Ltd 01262 409908; Coastal Shellfish Ltd 07815 130942; Independent Shellfishermen’s Co-operative Ltd 01262 401119;

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