Shrimp Fishing on Hoseback in Oostduinkerke, Belgium

For centuries the people living along the coast of the Northsea made their living from the sea.
In parts of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Northern France shrimping supplemented the income.
On foot, up to the chest in cold water pushing a raking net over the sand or on horseback pulling large drag nets down the beaches. This way of shrimping dates back into the 15th century, doing it on foot even furtehr.

The shrimps netted from the shallow waters inaccessible for fisheries by expensive boats and done by women and children supplemented the income of the fishermen families while the men where fishing offshore for extended perioids of time. Like many other traditions and techniques this way of fishing disappeared in the 2nd half of the 20th century with the advancing technology and changes in lifestyle.

In the Belgian village of Oostduinkerke shrimping on foot and from horseback is still kept alive by a group of local enthusiasts. The "Paardenvissers" or "Peerdevisscher" drag for grey shrimp (Crangon crangon), a species of crustaceans smaller than the little finger on your hand from the back of Heavy "Belgium" Draft Horses. Nowadays the Paardenvissers demonstrate their trade as part of their coastal heritage to locals and tourists alike, since 2013 recognized by the UNESCO as "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity".

From April to October fishing of shrimp from horseback and on foot, the preparation of the catch by boiling and peeling the shrimp are demonstrated along the beach of Oostduinkerke.

After having read about his tradition and seeing a couple of video documentaries I took the opportunity to visit Oostduinkerke for a day in July 2019 to watch the Paardenvissers in action and sample some fresh shrimp.

 

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