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In Essaouira and its surroundings a major part of the population lives on fishing products coming from trawlers and long liners, the famous blue boats. Yet there is a parallel fishing activity, more peripheral and on a small scale: shell fishing. A real economic activity!
But also, it allows families to live on it. Beyond the village of Diabet and beyond the borj crumbled on the sand, the beach goes on over kilometres with low rocks covered by high tide; this allows for shell fishing on flat rocks with numerous crevices containing mussels, whelks, crabs, octopus, abalone or urchins depending on seasons and weather.
Pebbles and rocks washed over by the sea for thousands of years roll under your feet as far as Cape Sim. The little fishermen’s village, close to the fresh water resurgence “lmahalou”, is at about ten kilometres from the town; the huts are made of wood, metal plates, cardboard and plastic. The fishermen’s figures, most of them men, standing isolated, squatting, with their big bags down close by, are outlined by the green light of the rocks. It is not uncommon to pass by a bicycle or a motorcycle with a fishing rod placed on the frame, going along the beach to seemingly nowhere, or so far away that your eyes cannot follow.
Beyond the rock bar, some fishermen with lines or settled into inner tubes to catch bass, bream or sole can be seen. Further away, some women with donkeys are gathering red seaweed that will be sold or sent abroad, or they are collecting intact plastic bottles that will also be sold to store cleaning products and these will be auctioned sold in the medina, brought there into carrossas.
The intertidal zone is exploited by a mixed workface (small fishermen, farmers, retired people, women and children). They collect by plucking the algae fixed to their substratum and they gather the seaweed left behind by the tide. These are exported to be used as texturing agents, film forming agents or emulsifiers in numerous areas by the food or pharmaceutical industry.
A short distance on the heights of the beach, the tide mark offers a mixture of shellfish, wood, plastic, bits of string and bones, treasures accumulated by the tides, except plastic that comes from inland but is mainly carried by currents and its scraps can be seen floating along some kilometres.
Another woman is picking up driftwood in order to supply the oven and she is breaking her back carrying such heavy burdens. Today, the fishing is good, shellfish is heaped into bags and fishermen proudly show off big octopus. The weather is soft, the sky a bright blue and the sea calm. When the currents are stronger fishermen add big flat sinkers to their rods in order to better grab bass and bream, as they are swift fish.