31st December 1968

Guernsey Police makes the world’s first underwater arrest

As a local delicacy, the ormer enjoys unusual protection. When and where it can be collected is strictly controlled and the penalty for breaking the rules can be expensive: a fine of up to £5000 or six months in prison. A 1968 case of unauthorised ormering led Guernsey Police to make the world’s first underwater arrest.

A passer-by had spotted a diver off Castle Cornet apparently collecting ormers both out of season and while fully submerged, both of which are forbidden.

Underwater arrest

Guernsey Police dispatched Constable David Archer, who entered the water just south of the castle where, true enough, he spotted the diver collecting the shellfish around 12m (40ft) below the surface. Archer tapped the man on the shoulder and motioned for him to go up to the surface. As soon as they both had their heads above the water, Archer arrested him and both men had earned themselves a place in Guernsey’s history books.

Ormers, called abalones elsewhere, can only be gathered on days of the full and new moon, and the two days that follow either, between 1st January and 30th April each year. Any ormers less than 80mm long, when measured along the longest axis of the shell, must immediately be put back where they were found. The use of any breathing aparatus is forbidden, as is being partially submerged. The only way to collect them, then, is by wading into the water and remaining upright.


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