High tide, low tide, the sea never stops its continual back and forth motion. And the spectacle is even more impressive during spring tides. It’s also the ideal moment to set off to gather shellfish. Scour the beach and explore the rock pools to find a harvest of crabs and shell fish.
The sea, with all of its grandeur, is really a bit of a joker. Some days it comes in so close that it completely covers the beach. The next day, it’s so far out that you have to walk half a mile to get to the water’s edge. It comes and it goes and never stays still.
This oceanic brain teaser has a name: the tide. The phenomenon is caused by the moon, which attracts the ocean like a magnet. When the moon passes over the Atlantic, the ocean ‘rises’ towards it, and this is what is called the high tide. When the moon moves away, the sea level drops; it’s low tide.
And sometimes, the sun also joins in with this rather strange dance. Once a fortnight, when there’s a full moon or a new moon, the sun is positioned behind the moon and increases the magnetic pull of the oceans. The sea level then rises even higher toward the two stars, and this is called a spring tide.
Spectacular spring tides
In Saint-Malo, you can see some of the strongest tides in Europe. They regularly reach a coefficient of 110, on a scale of 20 – 120!
Not far from there, in the Mont-Saint-Michel Bay, the sea rises so quickly that the first wave can sometimes reach record speeds of a metre a second. It’s said that the tide rises in the bay at the speed of a galloping horse!
The Bay of Saint-Brieuc is not bad either. During the spring tides, the sea goes out 7 km! It’s the bay with the fifth largest foreshore in the world, the foreshore being the stretch of the beach situated between the highest and lowest tide water marks. It’s on the foreshore that you’ll find most of the crustaceans and shellfish. So that’s where you need to look!
Shellfish gathering: a practical guide
As soon as it’s low tide, get your wellies and waterproofs on, grab your baskets and buckets, and explore the beach and rocks. Abalone, clams, winkles, crabs, wild oysters...the foreshore is humming with life, and the seafood that can be found there is one of Brittany’s greatest riches.
But it’s also a very fragile environment. In order not to damage it, it’s best to follow certain rules and to be aware of some environmentally friendly behaviour. Respect the gathering zones and periods. Don’t forget to take a ruler with you to measure the shellfish and crustaceans that you pick up. If they are too small, put them back where they were so they can carry on growing and help save the species from extinction. Another rule to follow to protect this fragile environment: always put rocks, stones and even seaweed back in its place, and the right way round.
Has all that sea air made you feel hungry? That’s good, for on the menu tonight, it’s seafood platters all round!