Photo of the week: Riding high

Summary

A second woman has joined the group of certified shrimp fishers on horseback, who enter the North Sea at Oostduinkerke

A horse of a different colour

Fishing has always been a male-dominated sector, and it’s no different for the shrimp fishers on horseback that can only be seen in Oostduinkerke at the Flemish coast. So Katrien Terryn made headlines this week when she passed her final exam to become a horseback shrimp fisher.

This method of shrimp fishing has been around for 500 years, but the only place in the world it is still done is in Oostduinkerke. Those certified for the job attach shrimping cages to big Brabant horses and ride them out into the sea. The cage drags along the sea bed, capturing little grey shrimps. Unesco recognised the practice as intangible cultural heritage in 2013.

There are only 17 certified shrimp fishers left, and only one of them is a woman. But now there are two. Terryn, 27, had to follow a two-year course to take the exam.

‘Wasn’t easy’

“It wasn’t easy to master it all,” she told VRT. “Mounting the horse quickly and smoothly, sifting through the shrimps … every move is equally important.”

While technique is crucial, long-time shrimp fisher Eddy D’Hulster says that a love of horses and the sea cannot be underestimated. You want to feel the sea on your feet and you carry the horse in your heart – that’s why you become a horseback shrimp fisher.”

In previous years “the older fishermen looked a bit sideways at the women who were doing it,” D’Hulster said. “It is indeed a tough job. Katrien admits that it’s heavy work, but it will all work out fine.”

The shrimp fishers on horseback can be seen during the summer on the coast of Oostduinkerke. While they do bring back shrimps, they don’t do this for a living. Rather, they are keeping up an old tradition – and entertaining onlookers.

Photo ©Sofhie Legein/Lokaal bestuur Koksijde