As far as the eye can see, a metallic body of water spans out for miles covering barely visible sand banks… this is known as the Wadden Sea, (Waddenzee in Dutch), often called ‘sea of mud’ or ‘inter-tidal plain’ as that part of the coast is periodically submerged by tides. From the southern coast of Denmark to Holland, the Waddensee is a dense network of tidal channels, sandy strips, muddy sea beds and salt-water marshes that lie between the earth and the sea, bordered with small islands emerging from the North Sea waters in the form of long, sandy beaches. Those that are today islands were once dunes that rose along the coast. Between the tenth and fourteenth centuries a combination of elements, including strong winds have eroded the 450 kilometers of coastline. The water covered huge areas of peaty soil, forming an inland sea that now extends over 10,000 square kilometers.
The strength of the natural elements, however, is not the only factor that has changed and redesigned the coasts of Waddensee: man’s initiative has equipped them with a system of dams that have allowed to tear again a part of the land to the sea. These dams are the boundary between the Waddensee and the mainland, and also divide the earth from the fresh waters of Lake Yssel, the Netherlands, where it empties into a tributary of the Rhine.
In this unique environment, 35 artisanal fishermen are the last to use fixed fishing equipment, that is to say equipment that is anchored at specific points.
The fixed equipment (for example fishing pots, longlines, nets) can be compared to a kind of trap: their effectiveness varies depending on the anchor points (often just a few meters can be all the difference) and on a extremely subtle knowledge of the environment and sea beds.
Each fisherman is specialized in one or more of these techniques and working on a limited number of marine species. It is fishing for mullet, sea bass, smelt (which in this area smells like cucumber), "bot" (a kind of halibut), crabs and mussels. In the past, many fishermen pursued eel, which today, however, has disappeared from these waters, probably as a result of dams, which have changed the salinity. One of the fishermen has also been responsible for smoking fish and eels for over forty years.
The Wadden Sea and Northsea beaches of the Wadden Islands, from the north west point of Holland to the German border.
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