BELGA/DESPLENTER

Fancy grey shrimps from the River Schelde?

Researchers at the Institute for Nature and Forestry Research INBO have discovered that the grey shrimp is occurring in reaches higher and higher up the River Schelde (Scheldt).  “In earlier times the shrimp only occurred as far as Antwerp.  Today the grey shrimp occurs naturally in all reaches of the Sea Scheldt i.e. until the locks at Gentbrugge (Ghent) in that part of the river where the tide is still noticeable.

The news opens the prospect of delicious grey shrimps from the River Schelde instead of the North Sea.  Dutch fishers have already shown an interest in fishing for shrimps here.

“The grey shrimp started to make headway around 2014” says researcher Jan Breine.  “It’s particularly noticeable in places like Bornem (Antwerp Province).  In the winter they occur in great numbers. They are edible and tasty! I must say I personally haven’t tasted them yet.  When we are on the river, we are always so busy.”

The increase in numbers is being linked to drier conditions.

“Tides affect many areas of the River Schelde that has fresh and salt water.  With less rainfall in the spring, the lower reaches become saltier.  Starting at Bornem it usually becomes a freshwater river, but that depends on the weather and can change.  The grey shrimp is encroaching on new areas as is the prawn that is said to be less tasty but an important source of food for sea fish: seabass, herring and sprat”.

But isn’t the Schelde becoming too salty?

Jan Breine: “Our results don’t point to this, but never say never.  Our climate is changing and the salt content of the River Schelde depends on the amount of rain.  The amount of water channelled into the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal also plays a role.   I don’t believe the Schelde will ever become an entirely marine river.  There is still a lot of fresh water in the Schelde basin.

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