On northern Spain’s Coast of Death (Costa de la Muerte) local men risk their lives searching the jagged cliffs for gooseneck barnacles, a rare delicacy for which diners will shell out hundreds of euros. Christoph Otto meets the percebeiros of Galicia.
Christoph Otto writing for Telegraph.co.uk–The fishermen meet in the middle of the night in Barizo, a small port in Galicia, northern Spain. Caps pulled over their foreheads, they stare out to sea, which must be flat and smooth for the conditions to be right. They are heading for the small islands that lie off the coastline to search for gooseneck barnacles, or percebes. It is here, where the roaring surf crashes wildly on to the rocks, that the largest and fattest examples – the ones that bring in the most money – grow.
Galicia is the poorhouse of Spain: there are few jobs and none that pay well. The shipbuilding industry, once the pride of Galicia, is in ruins, and the sea is overfished. Hunting for gooseneck barnacles is one of the few ways in which to earn money. Gourmets pay a high price for the rare stalked crustaceans: in a restaurant a plateful can cost €100. On the eve of important festivities, fishermen can make up to €300 per kilo at auction – with luck they can earn €1,000 in a day. But the stakes they play for are high; this is a dangerous way to make a living.