Pickers, pluckers, pryers, and scoopers scramble over the rocks as the tide recedes. Each person has their own favorite tools and positions. Some people concentrate on the rocks, while others wade at the edge of the water. The waders have homemade tools that amount to a stiff butterfly net on a pole. They scrape and scoop in the shallow water filtering out the sand looking for treasures.
The treasures that these Breton villagers are seeking are mollusks. Mollusks play an important role in Breton cuisine and coastal income. The plastic shell buckets on every table in restaurants attest to the popularity of ‘moules et frites’, the pervasive mussels and fries.
When the tide goes out in Brittany it goes way out. The seafloor is gently sloping. The expanse of exposed rock draws villagers who are happy leave their other chores and pick up free seafood.
Mollusks are grown and harvested commercially in many villages. Networks of vertical posts are seeded with mussels. When the posts are exposed at low tide mature shellfish are harvested using a boom on a barge. The barges work offshore while the locals clamor for their own harvest. Some of these posts are visible offshore, in the distance in the upper photo.
It is very common for boats to settle onto the sand or rocks in bays and harbors with each low tide. When people are done with their boats for the season they are removed by tractors at low tide. The boats are lifted off of the mud onto trailers and taken up the boat ramps to waiting trucks or to nearby storage.
There is plenty of activity at low tide. I sat and watched as people followed the tide out and worked the rocks. The scraping and prying sounds were sometimes drowned out by the noisy work barges as they methodically moved along the posts. In the foreground old tractors moved slowly back and forth extracting boats. Eventually all of this activity moved gradually back toward shore as the tide moved back in. It is an ancient cycle.
Villagers walked up the ramps past me carrying their finds. Their buckets and wire baskets were heaped with mussels. One regular put his mounded basket on the back of his bicycle and pedaled toward town. His rubber boots helped on the rocks and in the tidepools, but they weren’t the best shoes for cycling. He looked like he was there every day, so it must work for him.