With their sweet flavour and melt-in-the-mouth texture, scallops, or « coquilles Saint-Jacques » in French, are the emblem of the Bay of Saint-Brieuc, where they are nicknamed « white gold ». Discover how they are harvested, and what makes them so special.
Art and Symbolism
Scallops can be traced back 570 million years in fossil form. Throughout the ages, they have been used as religious symbols, decorations, and have also been traded for other objects.
They became the symbol of the pilgrimage to Saint Jacques de Compostelle: pilgrims collected them and proudly brought them home as proof of their journey. Due to its shape, the shell was also used to scoop food and water along the trail.
The scallop carries notions of piety, fecundity, and good luck, and became prominent in art and architecture during the Renaissance. In Brittany, the shell is carved on many door lintels.
Fête de la Coquille Saint-Jacques
Every year, on the last weekend of April, the fishing ports of Erquy, Saint-Quay-Portrieux and Paimpol take turns hosting the « Fête de la Coquille Saint-Jacques ». The festival celebrates scallops and marks the closing of an intense 6-month fishing season.
The event offers gourmet eaters the chance to taste a wide variety of scallop-inspired recipes, either at local restaurants, or food stalls setup near the port. There is much to see and do, including the Knights of the Scallop parade, live music, the bustling arts and craft markets, and cooking exhibitions. The program also includes sea trips to follow the trawlers as the fishermen search for the very last scallops of the season. Naturally, scallops are available for purchase, either fresh in their shells or ready-to-eat.
In the 1950s, with the rediscovery of the deposit, the number of ships increased and fishermen started fishing scallops quite intensively. The rapid decline of the stock made it necessary to take measures in order to protect the species.
Since then, fishermen have been subject to several rules : they must carry a special permit, the boats are limited in size, and a maximum of two dredges (large metallic nets used to scrape the sand and collect shells) are allowed on board. The characteristics of the dredge are also defined to comply with the minimum catch size.
The scallop season runs from October to April and the fishing and harvesting is restricted to 45 minutes twice a week, with defined quotas. After April, the reproduction period begins and the fishermen give the resource natural time to reproduce.
Nowadays, more than 200 licensed trawlers fish scallops, among which 104 are from Saint-Quay-Portrieux.