Monday, 27 August 2007

Dying trades

Where dying trades are concerned, one of the most arcane and outdated ones must be Belgium's horseback shrimp fishery. Men in bright yellow overalls and south-westers ride their plodding workhorses across the sands into the North Sea at low tide to trawl for shrimps in just the way their forefathers have done for more than 500 years. Just as in 1500, the horses drag two large planks behind them that open out once in the water to reveal a net that scoops up the shrimps and any other fish lurking in the surf.
Back then, it was the farmers who wanted the fish as fertilizer for their fields. Nowadays it's just a tourist attraction. Hordes of children and adults clamor for the shrimps as they are brought ashore. The men throw a few pailfuls on to the beach for the children to gather up, then take the rest of the catch home to cook.
The fisherman can't make enough money anymore to live from it. The tourist board keeps the trade alive. Only 15 of them are actually still doing it. Maybe they can start a blog about it ;-)
Not just any horse will go in the sea either. The right horse has to be found. A strong bond between horse and rider is necessary.
Once a horse is found, it stays with the fisherman for life.
They say that there is such a love story between the horse and the fisherman. Once he has a horse that works, he is married to it. They say they like the horses more than their own wives.
I hope that's just a figure of speech.


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Patricia said...

That's an awesome story. It's great that the tourist board sees the wisdom in keeping this ancient tradition from dying.