Thursday 20 July
I couldn’t explain it at first. Why was it that, with every question I asked, James the mussel man seemed to get a little shorter? Starting off eye to eye yet within ten minutes he was eye to Adam’s apple. This week’s shoot is all about the gradually warming seas around Britain affecting what lives there, what our fishermen can expect to haul up and what we might see for our tea. Average water temperature around the UK has gone up one degree Celsius in the last 50 years. Not enough to swap your wetsuit for something more itsy-bitsy but sufficient for southern visitors to take up residence and we’ve been looking at what’s new around the coast of north Wales. First from the deep was supposed to be spider crabs but the wretched ‘summer’ weather scuppered us again and it was too rough to venture out and lift the pots. Plan b was a fish wholesaler but even he couldn’t promise. So as we rounded the corner to his chilled sheds I was quite agitated: excited as a childhood memory flickered of seeing spider crabs dwarfing a space hopper in the Guinness book of records yet nervous as he might have none and it’s difficult to make telly without seeing what you are talking about. He had some. Still alive but docile, he said they move like ‘grease lightning’ underwater and the lobster boys are bringing in more and more. The trouble is that the British shopper is too cautious to dig into what resembles the ‘face-hugger’ from Alien plus a hard shell and minus a tail. The Spanish used to buy them but are a little strapped just now. But the warmer water seems to be washing out the cod. Already hammered by our own overfishing, their recovery has been hampered by the favourite food of the cod larvae being a plankton which thrives in chillier seas. Less food for littl’uns means fewer healthy adults. Only when the tide was right could we make the last stop of the day. The home of one third of the farmed mussels sold in the UK: the mudflats of the Menai Strait. A struggle to reach and only achieved with waders and frequent comedy floundering. Heat loving invasive species, already apparent at Holyhead, threaten to smother the mussel beds in brown goo. A more acidic ocean resulting from more CO2 in the air could impede shell growth. But the more immediate peril was the fate of the incredible shrinking man who was delivering this information. He was, of course, sinking slowly in the mud, maybe I have bigger feet. But it wasn’t strictly mud he told us but what has already passed through the mussels: “pseudo – faeces” in fact. Nice... Tomorrow we may see dolphins.