Benny stands in the cockpit of the Laura, in the harbor at Nykøbing on Mors Island. He’s around 50 years old, skin aged with sun and cigarette smoke, but he has a young wife. For this, he says, he eats lots of hard-boiled eggs, a kind of Jutland viagra. In addition to his daughter, Benny has a son, who does not want to be a fisherman. For five generations, Andersens have fished the Limfjord, but Benny will be the last.
“When I started in 1977, I was 14, there were no problems, you could go out and catch whatever you want, eel and sea star and herring,” he says. “Now there’s coming more and more rules you have to fish by, and it’s become a very big problem to be a fisherman today. It’s not alone in the fjord, but all over in Denmark. More and more rules.”
The sea star rules are among the more vexing. It used to be that fishermen could make money selling sea stars to the island’s pig farmers, who would feed the starfish to their hogs. Now, that’s all illegal, and if this is the first time you ever thought about the problem of pigs not being able to eat starfish, well, then, same here.
The fishermen lose out on a few kroner because they can’t sell this bycatch, but there’s a bigger problem. The sea stars now have “no enemy” as Benny puts it, and among their favorite foods are those wide, flat oysters. Each year the sea stars, spreading unchecked on the inlet floor, eat as many tons of Limfjord oysters as the entire fleet catches, says Benny.
A hundred years before Christ, a Roman merchant called Sergius Orata—named Orata after a golden fish, because in his wealth he wore gold rings on his fat fingers—developed a method of farming oysters. The practice spread north through Europe, into France, where the Bretons started using a practice called tromper I’huître (“fool the oyster”) to prevent them from opening their shells in the air when moved. But the ingenuity of farming will never replace the wildness of the species when it is in cold, clean waters. And so the 5000 to 6000 metric tons of mussel meat, in addition to all the Limfjord oysters, that Vilsund Blue harvests and processes, is all wild-caught by the 38 boats in the fjord’s fleet.