Huge trawlers rub shoulders with small artisanal fishing boats in the port. It is a scene which never changes.
Sea bass, cod, whiting, plaice, turbot, sole, crab, mussels, cockles, etc. Every day, before the sun is even up, the same ritual takes place. Thousands of fish are unloaded at the quaysides of France’s most important fishing port. With its huge industrial trawlers and small artisanal fishing vessels, the Boulonnais’ fleet alone consists of about a hundred boats.
The industrial trawlers
In Boulogne-sur-Mer, much like other ports around the world, industrial trawlers reign supreme. The dimensions of these mammoth ships are huge. Equipped with a pocket-shaped net to drag along the bottom or near the surface of the sea, they set off fishing for days or even weeks. The Boulonnais’ fleet has four industrial trawlers for fresh fish and three trawlers for frozen fish. The former fish in the North Sea and the Channel. The fish are kept fresh on ice, then unloaded and sold at the auction. The latter are at sea for much longer. Once caught, the fish are gutted, cleaned, filleted, boxed and frozen at -40 °C, before being stored in refrigerated holds. They are just like floating factories!
The artisanal fishing boats
Apart from the huge trawlers owned by shipowners, the Boulonnais’ fleet also has around fifty artisanal fishing boats. The skipper is usually the owner of the boat. These boats measuring less than 20 metres are mainly multi-purpose trawlers. The fishermen use trawls as well as dredges, nets, traps, creels and longlines, etc. They also often specialise in certain species of fish. As a result, you may come across ‘coquillers’ (specialising in scallops), ‘harenguiers’ (specialising in herring) etc. in the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer. This all adds to the port’s charm.
The coastal fishing boats
More than 60 boats fish just along the coast in Boulogne-sur-Mer. This takes place in an area of 12 miles and never out at sea. The crew usually comprises two or three people and trips out to sea last between one to four days. Fishermen also work on their boats alone, often if their vessels are less than 12 metres. These coastal fishing boats only land fresh fish - and are a delight for the taste buds!