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Small seafood that clings to the rocky shore but is an expensive luxury delicacy

Along the rough, rocky waters of the North West coast of Spain, the Costa da Morte (“Coast of Death”) is where you’ll find the best gooseneck oysters. Hard-skinned crustaceans that cling to coastal rocks are among the most expensive seafood in the world.

Small seafood clings to the rocky shore but is an expensive luxury delicacy - 1

Fishermen catching gooseneck oysters (called Percebeiros) often risk injury and death to obtain this rare, expensive delicacy. They jumped from their boats onto razor-sharp rocks in the right waters, where the winds were strongest and the tides were highest. They traversed rocks and swam through underwater caves to identify the best oysters, while also trying not to get swept away by the tide. The more dangerous the place, the better the gooseneck oysters.

The economic crisis has sent people who might have been looking for jobs in areas like construction back into the industry looking for gooseneck oysters.

Ten years ago, many of them were in higher-paying and less risky jobs. But then a crisis hits and they have to go back to their father’s or even grandfather’s way of life.

And while harvesting gooseneck oysters was once considered a man’s job, economic hardships have forced women to take the plunge, too. During the gooseneck spawning season, the women spend three to four hours on the rocks each morning looking for oysters. They then went back to tending to the family farm while the husband returned to the sea.

In Aguino (Spain), there are between 80 and 100 percebeiros who work legally, although there are many others who hunt illegally at night. Due to tightening regulations on how many live individuals can be collected and the increased cost of obtaining permits to operate in the waters, the coast of Galicia has seen an increase in poaching. Although the water levels are more dangerous at night and the penalties for fishing are harsh, the lucrative returns from gooseneck oysters make people overlook all risks to themselves.

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