Shellfish gathering in la Manche

Everything you need to know to gather shellfish sustainably
Photo
© Xavier Lachenaud

Bathed by the biggest tides in Europe, the beaches of la Manche reveal thousands of treasures when the tide goes out. Shellfish gatherers head to the vast stretches of foreshore at low tide to gather different species, respecting the regulations in force. Find out all about the best places to gather shellfish, the equipment you’ll need and the rules to be aware of before you go. Nature outings with guides are also on offer along the coast. Grab your wellies and your net, we’re taking you to get some shellfish and a good dose of sea air!

Which shellfish can you gather in la Manche?

In la Manche, the species of crustaceans that you can gather are as varied as the landscapes, and include prawns, brown shrimps, lobsters and crabs. Our coasts are also home to a multitude of different molluscs: winkles, cockles, razor clams, abalones, clams, limpets, oysters, mussels and whelks. During the spring tides, the landscapes are transformed and this is often the best time to go shellfish gathering.

Photo
© Xavier Lachenaud

Where to gather shellfish in la Manche?

Here are some spots and the species you’ll find there, but take care to always protect these fragile environments:

  • In the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, you’ll find mostly brown shrimps and cockles
  • On the beaches around Granville, feast on razor clams, cockles and clams
  • Chausey is shellfish heaven. During the spring tides, you’ll be able to find razor clams, cockles and clams. The famous Chausey lobster hides away in holes, but you might be lucky enough to find one.
  • Around Agon-Coutainville, from Coutainville to Pointe-Agon, you can gather clams, crabs and prawns.
  • In Pirou and nearby, oysters, clams, winkles, whelks, cockles and dog cockles will keep you busy.
  • From Portbail to Barneville-Carteret, the long beaches are home to winkles, prawns, crabs, brown shrimps, razor clams and lobsters
  • On the vast beaches in Les Pieux, you’ll find limpets, crabs and winkles.
  • Near Goury and La Hague headland, you can gather abalones, crabs, prawns, limpets, winkles and lobsters
  • From Querqueville to Fermanville, bag yourself some clams, limpets, lobsters, crabs, razor clams, prawns and abalones
  • Barfleur and Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue are renowned for their mussels and oysters. But in the bay from Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue to Morsalines, you’ll also find crabs, razor clams, cockles, clams and winkles
  • From Quinéville to Ravenoville, search for limpets, crabs, prawns, brown shrimps, mussels and lobsters
  • In the bay of Les Veys, oysters and cockles will be your main catch, but be careful not to get stuck in the sand!

As you can see, there are almost as many spots to gather shellfish in la Manche as there are shellfish gatherers, lots of whom have their favourite places and like to keep them secret. Head off to find your own spot and your favourite shellfish on the huge beaches of the department. It’s a great way to get some fresh air and to reconnect with nature.

Photo
© Xavier Lachenaud

Environment-friendly shellfish gathering

Shellfish gathering is a leisure activity and should be done in a sustainable manner in order to protect the ecosystems in which shellfish live. Shellfish gathering is a leisure activity and should be done in a sustainable manner in order to protect the ecosystems in which shellfish live.

Photo
© Xavier Lachenaud

Here are some simple rules to follow to ensure the sustainability of shellfish gathering: : 

  • Only gather what you need.
  • Before you go, find out about the place, the periods and the fishing prohibitions in your zone. Shellfish gathering is a highly regulated activity.
  • Always respect minimum sizes and catch quotas. Use a gauge adapted to each species. The tools authorised for this practice are regulated by law: stay informed.
  • Sort what you gather: shells that are too small can be buried again and females carrying eggs must be released.
  • Remember to return any stones you move to their initial position, same side up, to protect the ecosystem (failing to do so is now an offence). Likewise, it’s forbidden to take any seaweed found on rocks.
  • To combat poaching, lobsters and certain fish must be marked.
  • If you’re unsure about the regulations in force, contact the local authorities for advice.

Regulations on shellfish gathering

Our tips for successful shellfish gathering

Plan your trip carefully

Shellfish gathering is a practice that’s intrinsically linked to the tides. It’s therefore essential to carefully check the tide times before heading to the beach. Ideally, you should begin gathering two hours before low tide and leave at low tide in order to avoid being cut off as the sea comes back in. It’s said that in la Manche, the tide comes in at the speed of a galloping horse, so be very careful, and even more so during the spring tides.

Tip: Pick a landmark on the coast to avoid going astray and regularly check the water level.

Be sure to stay informed of the water quality at your chosen spot. Some places are regularly closed to shellfish gathering because of restrictions or protective measures. Always read any information panels on site.

Remember to check the weather conditions. The weather and landscapes of the Manche change rapidly with the tides. Make sure you have adequate clothing.

Tip: you’ll need wellies in all seasons. As for the rest, it could be a raincoat and a woolly hat, or suncream and a sun hat, depending on the season.

In case of emergency, dial 196.

Photo
© Xavier Lachenaud

What equipment will you need and how do you use it?

You don’t need any specific equipment, but be careful to comply with regulations. As a minimum, you’ll need a bucket or a basket, a push net (or dip net) to gather prawns, and a gauge to measure the shellfish.

Our tips for sustainable shellfish gathering

Mussels, oysters, winkles and whelks are often attached to rocks. You can simply detach them gently. For razor clams, look for the small characteristic holes and put some salt in them, which will make the razor clams emerge from the sand so that you can gather them. For cockles and clams, you need to look out for two small holes and a small squirt of water to find these molluscs. To protect this fragile environment, don’t use a rake.

Discovering the foreshore with a guide

Do you want to try shellfish gathering but you don’t know how to go about it? Then try one of the many nature outings available on the coast of la Manche ! 

APP2R

In connection with the tourist information office in Coutances, the volunteers from APP2R (association for sustainable shellfish gathering) regularly organise introductory sessions in Agon-Coutainville and Blainville-sur-Mer. The association also teaches shellfish gatherers about good practices and environmental protection.

APP2R

 The tourist information in Cotentin

In the Cotentin, the tourist information office organises shellfish gathering outings to teach people about sustainable practices. These are often held in the bay of Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue and are a great way to enjoy the seaside. If you’re lucky, you’ll head back home with a feast in your bucket!

Shellfish gathering in the Cotentin

AVRIL
Association

Accompanied by the AVRIL Association, head off to discover the flora and fauna of the foreshore. This vast natural environment is teeming with maritime treasures.
At the end of this experience, you’ll know everything there is to know about fish and shellfish.

Avril association

Recipe idea using your harvest

Ingredients: dozen clams, 50 g of butter, breadcrumbs, 1 shallot, 1 clove of garlic, parsley, salt, pepper

Method:

  1. Rinse and open the clams at the hinge.
  2. Finely chop the garlic, shallot and parsley, mix with the butter and season.
  3. Heat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius (th. 7/8).
  4. Put a knob of butter in each clam and add some breadcrumbs.
  5. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 220°C and serve as soon as the butter begins to bubble. Et voilà, a delicious treat with your catch of the day!

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