There is a traditional profession in Brittany that is hardly known: seaweed fisherman or goémonier, as the French call it. Even if that Job changed a lot, it is still practiced. An algae fisherman talks about his eventful life and his dream job.

Algae fisherman012

Algae fisherman from tradition and passion

Pierre Merdy, whom I meet in the port of Le Korejou, is 72 but could easily pass as younger. And that's despite the fact that, as he impishly admits, he's been partying hard all weekend. Whether it's a life of getting up at 4 a.m. and working until 12 at night, jung holds?

Pierre is an algae fisherman. And he wanted, he stopped that right from the start clearnever become anything else. He said he was born with his feet in the water in a canoe. His father and grandfather were already seaweed fishermen and Pierre had already collected seaweed on the beach before he could really walk.

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The largest algae occurrence in Europe

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The profession of algae fisherman has a long tradition in Brittany: here in the north of Finistère lies one of the largest algae deposits in Europe. Of the worldwide known 80.000 (estimated 400.000) species of algae only about 160 are used industrially. In the Ecomuseum of Plouguerneau you will learn everything worth knowing about algae processing.

Previously, the algae were collected, dried and burnt in so-called soda ovens. Here they were simple ditches, which were clothed with stones and can still be discovered in the dunes.

The history of the algae industry

The ash was not only used as a fertilizer and fuel, but was also used to produce gunpowder. At the beginning of the 19th century, antiseptic properties were also discovered Effect the iodine-containing algae.

Napoleon once built factories in Brittany, in which iodine could be extracted from the leaves. However, 25 tons of collected algae yield just 15 kilo iodine.

From seaweed fisherman to marine diver

In the 50's the traditional seaweed industry got caught up in one Crisis and Pierre had to find another job. “I went to sea on a transport ship for five years.

Then I did my military service. Then I went back to the sea. And then ... ”he added with a grin,“ I was a diver in the French Navy for 15 years. ”

The change in the economy opens up new possibilities

But algae fishing did not let go: With 40 he bought his own boat to become algae fishermen again. Today, algae are harvested with the Scoubidou, a propeller crane plucking the water plants from the water. In factories, the algae are then processed into alginates for medicine, naturopathy and food manufacturers.

Pierre has two daughters, two of his four grandchildren are engineers, one is studying medicine - and the smallest is still small and wants to be a helicopter pilot. The family tradition of the algae fishermen will not continue.

A traditional profession that dies out

"There are still algae fishing families - but fewer and fewer," says Pierre. About 50 algae fishermen are still active. Whether he is a boy People can you advise at all to pursue such a profession?

“It depends”, says Pierre: “I got up at 4 a.m. every morning and was never in bed before 11 or 12 a.m. Sometimes when I drove far I didn't eat or drink anything all day. This video gives an insight into the work:

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Hard bread, but a dream job

An incredibly hard job. ” Still, algae fishing was his absolute dream job, he never wanted to do anything else: "It's a great job, but you have to have it in your blood."

By the way, Pierre's mother tongue is not French, but Breton. It would seem strange to him to talk to the people from his village in French. In Breton, he also spoke to me of his life motto on the recording device: "There is no better way than being at sea!"

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