How does it work?
The horse walks breast-deep in the water, parallel to the coastline. They use funnel shaped nets, held open by two wooden boards. A chain is dragged over the sand creating shockwaves which cause the shrimp to jump up and enter the net. Pulling this net (7 x 10 meters) requires the tremendous strength that Brabant draft horses are able to develop. The fishing is interrupted every half-hour in order to return to the beach to empty the net and sift the catch. The shrimp are then placed in the baskets that hang at the horses' sides. The shrimp are later cooked in fresh water. A whole series of practices, artefacts and instruments are connected to this traditional craftsmanship, which is supported by the households and families of the shrimp fishermen and by extension, by the community of Oostduinkerke and Koksijde as a whole. Twelve households in Oostduinkerke are actively engaged in shrimp fishing: each has its own speciality, such as weaving nets or an extensive knowledge of Brabant draft horses. The tradition gives the community a strong sense of collective identity and plays a central role in social and cultural events, including the two-day Shrimp Festival for which the local community spends months building floats, preparing street theatre and making costumes. The shrimp parade, and a contest involving hundreds of children being initiated into shrimp catching, attract over 10,000 visitors every year. The shrimp fishers function on principles of shared cultural values and mutual dependence. Experienced shrimpers demonstrate techniques and share their knowledge of nets, tides and currents with beginners.