Welsh sea trout caught in a traditional coracle boats have been awarded special protected status by the European Commission.
Just a handful of coracle-paddling fishermen are permitted to catch sea trout – known in Wales as “sewin” – on the rivers of west Wales in a tradition that stretches back hundreds of years.
Now the fruits of their labours have been granted Protected Food Name (PFN) status, which offers Europe-wide legal protection against imitation and misuse.
In doing so, “West Wales Coracle Caught Sewin” has become the latest of 11 Welsh food products which now have this status.
Another is West Wales Coracle Caught Salmon.
In its four-year bid for sewin’s PFN status, Carmarthen Coracle and Netsmen’s Association (CCCNA) was supported by the Welsh Government.
Rural affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths was delighted with the successful outcome.
She said: “This recognition is important because as we prepare for a future outside the EU we will be able to demonstrate to potential new markets that Wales produces a wide range of high quality food and drink products.”
Coracle fishing is the ancient method whereby pairs of coracles suspend a net between them – often at night – to catch sewin as they start to move upstream.
A coracle is a small round “boat”, similar in shape to half an Easter egg, that is lightweight and easy to carry but offers limited stability: it has been described as trying to fish out of a washing-up bowl.
It was made traditionally from woven willow or ash and originally covered in animal hide, now replaced with tarred calico or canvas.
Unique to coracles, the fishing nets must be hand made. Their size is governed by strict regulations enforced by National Resources Wales (NRW), thus allowing smaller fish to swim through.
The sewin is caught in a five-month season, starting on March 1 on the Tywi and Taf rivers, and the April 1 on the River Teif.
Only 21 pairs of coracles are licensed to fish – and none at weekends.
Chefs at Bodnant Welsh Food Centre are confirmed enthusiasts, claiming sewin to be the “UK’s best sea trout”.
Due to its diet of shrimps and other pink-fleshed crustaceans, the flesh of sewin is almost red, like the colour of wild salmon.
CCCNA secretary Julie Rees said securing product protection for West Wales Coracle Caught Sewin was a great achievement for such a small group of fishermen.
“We are proud that the old tradition and heritage of Coracle fishing has been acknowledged,” she added.