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By Pascal Rossignol
OFF THE COAST OF NORMANDY, France (Reuters) 

On the trawler Thierisa the mood was festive. It was the first day of the scallop season and the deck already groaned with the “white gold” of a bumper season in the waters off northern France

At dawn on Nov. 13, Captain Thierry Lefrancois and his crew of four had joined a procession of boats heading offshore from Port-en-Bessin, a fishing village that was the site of a battle during the Allied landing in Normandy in World War Two.

 

Fishermen sort scallops in boxes on the deck of Thierisa trawler in the Bay of the Seine
Fishermen sort scallops in boxes on the deck of Thierisa trawler in the Bay of the Seine, France, November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

 

After two and a half hours on turbulent waters, they arrived at the fishing grounds but had to wait until noon and the start of the scallop season at Bay of the Seine. Police helicopters hovered to make sure no nets were lowered early.

Northern France‘s season for scallop, or “white gold”, runs from October to mid-May but in Bay of the Seine it starts in November.

 

Empty shells of scallops are seen on a beach in Port-en-Bessin
Empty shells of scallops are seen on a beach in Port-en-Bessin, France, November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

 

At noon, fishermen dropped their dredges. The dragnets scrape the bottom of the bay for 15 to 20 minutes before being pulled up full of large pale shells.

 

A fisherman sorts scallops in boxes on the deck of Thierisa trawler in the Bay of the Seine
A fisherman sorts scallops in boxes on the deck of Thierisa trawler in the Bay of the Seine, France, November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

 

“It’s a miraculous catch,” said Lefrancois after dragging a net-busting 1.7 tonnes of Coquilles Saint Jacques from the waters. “In my 20-year career I have never seen this,” he said, praising the haul’s volume and the size of the scallops.

 

Early in the morning trawlers leave the harbour in Port-en-Bessin
Early in the morning trawlers leave the harbour in Port-en-Bessin, France, November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

 

This year’s scallop haul in France is expected to be four times larger than the average in the past decade, according to marine research agency Ifremer

Breeding this spring was boosted by a combination of unusually warm waters, an absence of strong winds and good stockpile management, it said.

At the end of the permitted two-hour fish, the armada returned to port, boats low in the water.

 

 

Fishermen will sell their catch at around 15 euros ($17.7) for five kilograms on the local market.

The price for Norman scallops will rise to around 10-15 euros a kilogram in Paris where demand is strong for the delicacy, particularly over Christmas as the seafood is a part of traditional festivities in France.

Based on samples taken in July, Ifremer expects another bumper catch next season.

 

(Additional reporting and writing by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

 

Thierry Lefranois, captain of Thierisa trawler, plays in the kitchen of his house with his dog Kali in Banville
Captain of Thierisa trawler, Thierry Lefranois, plays in the kitchen of his house with his dog Kali in Banville, France, December 15, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

 

Dylan a fisherman aboard Thierisa trawler, unloads scallops on docks in Port-en-Bessin
Dylan, 20, a fisherman aboard Thierisa trawler, unloads scallops on docks in Port-en-Bessin, France, November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

 

Thierisa trawler leaves the harbour early in the morning in Port-en-Bessin
Thierisa trawler leaves the harbour early in the morning in Port-en-Bessin, France, November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

 

A coffee mug hangs beside a marine clock inside the Thierisa trawler in Port-en-Bessin
A coffee mug hangs beside a marine clock inside the Thierisa trawler in Port-en-Bessin, France, December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

 

Fishermen Dylan and David take a break in the kitchen of Thierisa trawler in Port-en-Bessin
Fishermen Dylan (C) and David take a break in the kitchen of Thierisa trawler in Port-en-Bessin, France, November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

 

A covered fish market is seen in Port-en-Bessin
A covered fish market is seen in Port-en-Bessin, France, November 12, 2017. Picture taken November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

 

A view shows the town and the harbour of Port-en-Bessin
A view shows the town and the harbour of Port-en-Bessin, France, November 12, 2017. Picture taken November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
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