Guy and Juliet Grieves run The Ethical Shellfish Company on Mull, selling sustainably-caught seafood - including their own hand dived scallops. “Hand dived, creel-caught, hand-gathered and line caught” is the way they do business, practising responsible diving methods themselves, as well as buying fish and seafood from local fisherman who share their philosophy of 'respect for the ocean'.
The Grieves and their sons, Luke and Oscar, were living in the Borders, enduring a corporate workaday existence that neither of them found satisfying. Guy, burnt out from his job and seemingly endless commute, left for a year to live in the wilds of Alaska, while Juliet and the boys moved to Mull, where her parents lived. When Guy returned from his sojourn, they family undertook a year-long sailing trip around the world, despite, as Guy admits, having “near zero” sea time. Their adventures stoked a craving for a new lifestyle and career, so they decided to stay on Mull, and started Ethical Shellfish in 2011. Again, they had, according to Guy, “absolutely no knowledge or experience of the fishing sector,” but, as expected, this didn’t deter them. Now, less than five years on, their company has garnered multiple awards, Guy has appeared on American television cooking his scallops and their produce graces some of the best menus in the UK.
This week OLTA's blogger Michelle McAnally talks to Guy about the ups and downs of life as a scallop diver, and changing attitudes about the importance of sustainable, local seafood.
Q. What is your favourite part and most difficult part of the job?
A. I love that first moment when you drop from the boat into the water and feel the pressure build as you sink down into it all, straining your eyes for a first sight of the sea bed and hoping for good luck. The most difficult? Waking up on a frigid winter’s day in February and driving out to the boat in darkness knowing that it is going to be a hard, cold difficult day.
Q. What keeps you motivated to go out every day?
A. The sense that we are doing something right. Fishing in a manner that honours the sea. We are also not just supporting ourselves anymore - 15 others who live in the region are directly and indirectly supported by Ethical Shellfish Company.
Q. Is it really possible to fulfil the demand for shellfish using only ethical methods?
A. Yes it is, but we must protect the source of the shellfish supply and this source is our sea-beds. It’s all about habitat protection and also setting size limits to the fish caught. If this is done right, then nature will do the rest.
Q. Have you seen a change in the local food culture of the west coast since you started in 2011?
A. Yes. People are starting to realise that remote working communities need to create high net value foods for which demand globally out-strips supply. Some great Scottish cooks, too, are helping the cause, and the Scottish government is looking really serious about ensuring that our land and sea are well stewarded for this and future generations.
Q. You don’t export outside the UK. How is local seafood appreciated here now by chefs, locals and visitor? There is some great stuff going on locally. We love Cafe Fish (on Mull) and think they are doing great things with locally caught seafood, as well as Ninth Wave (on Mull), which looks incredible and about which we hear wonderful stuff
Q. What are some of the Oban restaurants that you supply?
A. EeUSK and Coast.
Q. What is your favourite way to prepare scallops?
A. Dusted in salt and seared then butter and chopped garlic last. Served with a good dry white wine, a wedge of lemon and a hunk of good brown bread.