The Netherlands have quite a number of small fishing communities, especially in the northern part along the coast of the Wadden Sea which is directly connected to the North Sea. A row of islands forms the border between the North Sea and the Wadden Sea which makes the latter fairly attractive for fishing when stormy winds prevent boats from entering the North Sea.
Erik Rotgans (32) is a skipper on the 19 metre long shrimp trawler WR-54 ‘Cornelis Nan’. Brown shrimps (Crangon crangon) are the target species. The 49 Gross Tonnage (GT) trawler is fitted out with two shrimp beam trawls. Fishing on brown shrimps is not easy since the catches show huge fluctuations every year. According to scientists, it is difficult to carry out research on the size of the stock and biomass. Therefore, it is difficult to provide advice. That is also the reason why there is no quota. One month the catches can be very poor and within a couple of days fishermen can be faced with an explosion of brown shrimp. It is not possible to estimate the size of these crustaceans.
Erik lives in a small, traditional fishing community called Den Oever which is situated on the former island of Wieringen. Before the fishing boats from Wieringen enter the North Sea they first have to pass through the shallow Wadden Sea.
As most of the fishermen from Wieringen, Erik is member of a fishing family. His great grandfather used to fish with a wooden flat bottomed boat, depending on the wind and the tide. This was not always easy since in the Wadden Sea strong tides were always running.
Erik became a fisherman when he was 18 years old after getting his diploma in the fisheries college in Den Helder. He loves his job, stating: “It is a privilege to work at sea. The suspense you feel when the cod end is hanging above the deck, it is always a surprise. Of course you always have expectations but still it is unpredictable most of the time”. According to Erik it is fascinating to see what the sea will provide every time. “There is so much life at sea and catches are not always the same. The compilation of the catch varies every day and sometimes depends on the location or the weather. The size of the catch varies also every time. Everything in the cod end is alive, shrimps, worms, whelks, fish, crabs and different type of starfish.”
On board the WR-54, the 2-men crew is responsible for processing the shrimp. The boat is equipped with modern grading machines in order to separate the shrimp from the rest of the catch. After grading, the shrimp will be cooked straight away. The shrimp are becoming red and at that moment they are ready for eating, you only have to peel them.
After cooking, the shrimp will be packed in plastic bags and stored in the hold in order to keep them fresh. Depending on the size of the catches, Erik lands the shrimp twice a week in Den Oever. The port of Den Oever has direct access to the Wadden Sea and it is more or less the capital of the former island of Wieringen. It is famous because of the top quality landings of shrimp and nephrops. The fleet of Wieringen consists of approximately 30 shrimp trawlers and more than 10 multi riggers for nephrops. On top of this, there are also small boats called Euro beamers, whole year round twin-riggers for flatfish and nephrops and fresh water fishing boats.