Producer of the Year

Tim Ball: Refreshing the Way We Fish

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A subsea forager in Newfoundland and Labrador is changing Atlantic fishing, one scallop at a time.

At Terre, in St. John’s, they serve a raw scallop dish bathed in a herbaceous green garlic sauce that flaunts the ultra–freshness of the seafood. Their scallop crudo in marigold cream elicits the same raw sensations of joy – delicately sweet and salty flesh melting away between tongue and palate.

November 3, 2021
Hand-harvested diver scallops are shucked with precision.
Hand–harvested diver scallops are shucked with precision.

All these bivalves were hand–picked by one man: Tim Ball. A part–time bayman and full–time subsea forager, Ball is changing the sustainability and stewardship of Newfoundland and Labrador fishing, one scallop shell – at least 10 centimetres in diameter – at a time. (Ball also harvests kelp and sea urchins.)

Related: A Menu for Change: Checking in on enRoute’s Top 10 Restaurants of 2019

man on boat

Ball began foraging at age 16, first working as a dive guide and instructor, later adding a recreational scallop license and then a commercial sea urchin license to his repertoire, selling urchins to local fish–processing plants that ship them off to Japan. Over 25 years, he has made his name by the high quality–to–quantity ratio of his catch and, four years ago, he bought a cabin in Garnish on the Burin Peninsula to help establish a commercial sea urchin fishery there. When he learned about the scallop–dragging ban in Fortune Bay, Ball inquired about getting a permit to hand–harvest scallops. Fortune Bay’s is now the only licensed diver‑scallop fishery on the island.

gif of man foraging for scallops while on boat
man standing beside fishing nets

When conditions allow, Ball forages for up to three and a half hours a day. Then he packs the catch into cloth bags and ships them four hours up the road to St. John’s, where the scallops land on diners’ plates within 24 hours – so fresh, some chefs are at first unsure how to prepare them. “You can get a frozen scallop anywhere, but it’s a job to get one that was caught less than 24 hours ago,” says Ball.

His environment–preserving methods have been fiercely welcomed in Garnish where, years ago, fishers dragging for scallops on the cobble bottom of Fortune Bay destroyed the habitat where juvenile lobsters burrow. “It’s almost lifeless where the fishers used to drag,” says Ball.

Now he’s trying to get other divers on board, and underwater, across the province and beyond. “I want there to be life in the ocean when my kids are old enough to have the option to fish.”

captain mural on side of white building

Where to Try Tim’s Catch

Fogo Island Inn

Fogo Island, NL
The sustainability–focused inn’s chefs spin Ball’s wares into creations like seared scallops dusted in scallop roe powder, with fermented blackberries, parsnip, buckwheat and brown–butter solids. 

Ball’s uni, scallops and kelp can also be had in St. John’s at: 

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