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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Other events that occured in December

French fishing boats prepare to invade 1st
Two cargo ships collide on their way to Guernsey 2nd
Guernseyman Herbert Le Patourel wrongly thought killed 3rd
A Guernsey funeral takes place in Cornwall 4th
Guernsey steamship SS Rossgull is wrecked 5th
The Guernsey Tapestry is completed 6th
Air UK Fokker overshoots Guernsey runway 7th
Naftel’s paintings go on display 8th
Guernsey and Jersey newspapers agree to merge 9th
Sark holds its first election 10th
Beau Sejour opens for business 11th
Victor Hugo flees France and Napoleon 12th
Explorer Edmund Kennedy is speared to death 13th
Author Mary Ann Shaffer is born
Herm bribery case comes to court 14th
Alderney’s evacuees return to their island 15th
Guillaume de Beauvoir appointed dean of English Church in Geneva 16th
Castle Cornet surrenders to Guernsey 17th
Telex, phones and telegram cables go quiet 18th
Guernsey shipwreck results in starvation 19th
Channel Islands Securities Exchange founded 20th
G-COBO has a bumpy flight 21st
Guernsey struck by an earthquake 22nd
William Hedley Cliff buys Jethou 23rd
Wombles author Liza Beresford dies 24th
Asterix is discovered in St Peter Port harbour 25th
Guille and Alles lease the Assembly Rooms 26th
The Red Cross saves Guernsey from starvation 27th
Operation Hardtack targets the Channel Islands 28th
Ebenezer Le Page author GB Edwards dies 29th
Castle Cornet is struck by lightning 30th
Guernsey Police makes the world’s first underwater arrest 31st