Station: [6] Food from the Wadden Sea Mudflats (Fishing Weirs, Rays)

M: In earlier times, there was a much greater abundance of fish in the Wadden Sea than there is now. People caught plaice with their bare hands and feet, and used a range of fishing equipment to catch other species. But the most effective method was to catch fish in fishing weirs, known locally as “fish gardens”. Take a look at the model and the old photographs to see how it worked.

F: Fishing weirs are willow fences that are set up in the mudflats with an opening towards the shore. When the tide comes in, the fish approach close in to the shore, and then swim back out to sea with the outgoing tide. If there’s a fishing weir in the way, they’re funnelled straight into a trap.
Take a look at the monitor in the middle of the room to see how such a “fish garden” operates.

M: The most important edible fish for the North Frisians used to be ray, because it could be dried and preserved as a winter food supply. Rays were found in large numbers among the islands and their smaller cousins, the Halligen. For centuries, the kings of Denmark laid claim to the ray stocks and issued fishing privileges to a small number of fishers, who were allowed to fish for ray commercially... Now, if you’re wondering how the kings of Denmark come into it…

F: Before the German-Danish War of 1864, the King of Denmark was also sovereign lord of Föhr and its population.

M: The fishers had a duty to pay taxes and levies in kind to the king. But about 200 years ago, the ray stocks declined, and the ray catch fell off a cliff. These days, you sometimes find the egg cases of rays on the beach, along the tideline – so we can assume there are still rays living in the deeper parts of the North Sea.

Fotos: © Dr.-Carl-Häberlin-Friesen-Museum