Posted by: Ardcrú Books | July 22, 2014

The Fanore Beach haul

I fell back into old ways last evening on Fanore beach in north Clare. Normally beachcombing is a healthy, outdoor pursuit. But I had to give it up several years ago after bringing home the makings of at least two skips of washed up plastic sea debris from the shores of south Connemara.

The haul included bits of nets and trawler fishing tackle discards which, shamefully, find their way into the marine food chain (welcome BIM to a future Dail committee of inquiry).

Fanore Haul. Note the lettering on the lobster tag.

Fanore Haul. Note the lettering on the lobster tag.

Then there were large shards of blue, yellow and red plastic from broken up fish boxes, stamped with the names of Irish fishing co-ops. Also the various fishing buoys, the most interesting of which were used to float nets. And lobster tags.

Walking along the beach at Fanore, the first item I noticed was a red plastic shotgun cartridge lying among the seaweed at high water mark. After inspection I placed it back where I found it. Further on I passed a little plastic reindeer and then a fishing net float. This was getting difficult.

But it was the lobster tag that knocked me off my perch. To the untrained eye it looked like the plastic tag placed around a patient’s wrist in hospital. On inspection I identified the letters G88 LOB NFLD.

The LOB stands for lobster and NFLD for Newfoundland. It was made by Stoffel Seals of Rexdale, Ontario.

Lobster tags are issued annually by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans of Newfoundland. The fisherman must attach a tag to each lobster trap he uses. At the end of the season he cuts loose the tag to be taken away by the tide.

The tag is carried south by the Labrador Current to where it joins the Gulf Stream somewhere off the coast of Maine. From there it is carried at no more that five kilometres per day to the coasts of Ireland and Britain.

On their TransAtlantic journey the tags drift through the lethal fog and icy waters close by the Grand Banks, interesting places like Blake’s Plateau and the Hibernia field and pass silently over the final resting place of the Titanic.

What’s remarkable about this particular tag is that it remains sealed and it is a mystery to me how it got loose.

That was it. I was hooked again. I picked up the fish net float, the plastic reindeer and retraced my steps carefully until I found the cartridge.

Guillemot is part of the Newfoundland menu. In autumn, as the season closes, fishermen take to the shores, shooting as many guillemot as they can fit into their freezer. The spent cartridges are swept up by the tide and many of those not swallowed by large fish wind up on west of Ireland shores.

Now the net floats have many decorative possibilities. I have seen them fitted on ropes like huge daisy chains on a house wall near Cleggan in north Connemara. Also, on a large wire frame to form a monster insect near Liscannor in County Clare.

But I’ve got to boast that I used them last year on my Christmas tree (left). Placing a Christmas light into each one, they glowed in the shade like Chinese lanterns.

The plastic reindeer is somebody else’s story to tell.



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