David Oakes, Double Dived Scallops why they are so unique and special.
On our first few research trips to Skye I was given the names of various divers both who lived on the Skye and who came to the island to dive. Being relatively ignorant, I assumed if they were hand dived they must be sustainable and therefore my two main criteria were could I get enough to satisfy customer demand and was the price good enough.
As I ate my way round the Island and visited various fishermen’s pubs with my father, one name which kept coming up was David Oakes and his intriguingly named Double Dived Scallops.
I sought out an introduction and was invited to his house on the shores of Loch Sligachan. We had a fascinating half hour conversation and my eyes were opened. He explained that he was one of only a handful of Scallop divers in Scotland to have been granted a Several Fisheries Order, a bureaucratic process that took seven years to achieve. He explained Loch Sligachan due to over fishing was almost void of any life when he was awarded his SFO in 1998 and is now teaming with Scallops and other aquatic life. These claims are backed up by the fact that David and his wife Alison host the University of Edinburgh Marine Biology department who are studying what has been achieved on the Loch Sligachan.
There was no doubt in my mind that these were some of the most sustainable dived/managed scallops in the UK, they are the ultimate in Slow Food and they looked and tasted delicious. My burning question was why were SFO’s not more prevalent?
As I drove down the road there were was one main issue that bothered me. Would I be able to persuade chefs to pay the premium that the extra work involved in double diving requires, or would they just dismiss “double dived” as some marketing gimmick or unnecessary.
Further research has indicated to me that David received his several fishery order in 1998 for a term on fifteen years at that time two other people were also awarded them Loch at Ainort and Broadford Bay. They are currently up for renewal yet only David will be renewing his. The only reason the others will not be is that it is not financially viable for them.
Why is it not financially viable?
1. Not enough people know the difference between a hand dived and a double dived scallop. Both in terms of improved flavour and consistency, but also in terms of the benefits to aquatic system of the SFO and beyond. Most importantly the extra costs and labour involved are more expensive than a single dived scallop yet they are expected to sell at the same price.
2. I have been reliably informed by numerous sources on the island that all three have been seriously affected by other divers poaching their shallow beds and which the authorities have decided not to act upon.
Why we can make this work.
I believe that the public and chefs have a greater appetite today for truly sustainable produce and produce that can make a significant impact environmentally, where price is not the only driver. We are seeing pent up demand for David’s Scallops despite not being able to sell them due to government restrictions.