If there’s one place to enjoy seafood to the full, it’s on one of the markets of South Vendée Atlantic, or on the busy quayside at the port of L’Aiguillon-sur-Mer. There, fishermen and farmers sell shellfish, crustaceans and fish directly from their huts. In some cases, you can visit the farms on either side of the River Lay.
Oyster farming – Vendée Atlantique oysters
The Baie de l’Aiguillon-sur-Mer is one of four major bays where Vendée Atlantic oysters are produced. The oysters are farmed in the Lay estuary or on the foreshore in the north of the Baie de l’Aiguillon-sur-Mer. Some are “fine fattened” for several months in the oyster beds known as “claires” where the water is less salty and richer in plankton. Oyster-lovers who prefer the strong saline taste of the sea will choose oysters farmed in deeper waters.
If, on the other hand, you prefer a lighter flavour and fuller body, then choose the fine-fattened version from the oyster beds. Oysters are eaten primarily between September and May. You can try them in establishments with on-site tasting facilities. Low in calories and rich in oligo-elements and vitamins, oysters are good for you!
In South Vendée Atlantic, farmed oyster beds cover an area of nearly 40 hectares. Local shellfish farmers produce 1,900 tonnes of mussels and 200 tonnes of oysters.
Mussel farming, “bouchot” tidewater mussels
Here in the Baie de l’Aiguillon, mussels have been raised on stakes, known as “bouchots” since the 13th century. These oakwood stakes planted on the foreshore protect the mussels from sand! With the movements of the tide, the stakes are alternately uncovered and submerged by seawater, giving the mussels that exquisite taste. Nowadays, on the same ancestral production site, mussel farmers experiment with a new technique for raising mussels on ropes out at sea. Mussels are best eaten between May and December when they are full and fleshy.
Shellfish farming, scallops
The fishing boats at the port of L’Aiguillon-sur-Mer and La Faute-sur-Mer take their catch from the Pertuis Breton strait. In summer, they fish for sole, hake, turbot and plaice. In winter, they go fishing for glass eels and scallops, especially in November and December for the latter… You can buy these delicacies directly at the port when the fishermen return.