A victim of its own success, the Granville Bay whelk almost became extinct. Fortunately, however, the local fisherman managed to save the tasty mollusk through managed fishing. In 2017 it achieved the MSC label and in 2019 it was awarded PGI status.
What you need to know
The Granville Bay whelk is a mollusk of the species Buccinum undatum,which particularly likes cold seas. Granville Bay provides a favorable environment, thanks in particular to the cool waters from the English Channel and the absence of mud and silt, which can give the flesh of this mollusk an unpleasant taste. The strong currents and considerable tides ensure the quality of the water is excellent.
The whelk has not always been as popular as it is today, and for a long time it was merely used as fishing bait by Newfoundlanders. From the 1990s, however it became an essential feature of seafood platters and appetizers, which led to overconsumption. The Granville Bay whelk fishermen, who are responsible for 90% of production, joined forces to protect the endangered resource. Quotas were introduced, a minimum size was set, and it was no longer fished at the weekend, or in January, the breeding season. As a result, the Granville Bay whelk obtained the MSC ecolabel for sustainable fishing at the end of 2017 and the PGI label in 2019. The whelks are caught using traps, a non-intrusive technique for the whelks, which are gathered gently. They are brought on board, sorted (whelks less than 1.9 inches in size are returned to the sea) and stored in crates called "grêles".
These whelks are low in calories, rich in high quality proteins and low in fats and carbohydrates. They are also a source of iodine, magnesium, selenium, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids.
How to use
Preparing and Serving Granville Bay Whelks PGI
If bought raw, they are soaked in cold water for 1 hour, then rinsed throughly. They should then be cooked for 10 to 12 minutes in salted water (start with cold water), with flavorings, and allowed to cool in the broth before straining. Do not overcook them as they may become rubbery. They are served in the shell. Simply remove the mollusk with a suitable pick (a toothpick will do) and discard the valve, which is not edible.
Storing Granville Bay Whelks PGI
Cooked or raw, they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.
Tasting Granville Bay Whelks PGI
They are served with mayonnaise or aioli. In addition, they can be removed from the shell and prepared in tartar, grilled or cut into pieces in a terrine.
To drink: Bourgogne Vezelay AOC, Muscadet sur lie PDO, white Cour-Cheverny PDO