|Oyster producer selling direct to the public on the Ile d'Oléron.|
Along the Atlantic coast of France around Marenne, Brouage, Moëze and Ile d'Oléron, oysters are farmed in large quantities. Part of the process in this area involves maturing them in pools called claires in the salt marshes. This process is known as affinage en claires and covers an area of about 3000 hectares. These specially matured oysters are the most prized by consumers and command a premium. They will be labelled either fines de claires or spéciales de claires, depending on how closely packed they are in the pools, and how big they are.
|Oyster farm huts, Ile d'Oléron.|
Oyster farmers are called ostréiculteurs in French and the farms are made up of a shack in the marsh, surrounded by pools. Often there are many colourful shacks together, in rows, each belonging to a different farmer. You can often buy oysters directly from the producer if you go to their shack.
|Oyster farms at Brouage.|
The water in the claires is salty. This area was once the biggest salt producing area in France and the pools that once produced salt are now maintained to farm oysters. They are manmade structures and are regularly dug out to keep them in good condition and prevent algal growths that would use oxygen needed by the oysters.
|Oyster farms, Brouage, with the maturing pools (claires) in front of the huts.|
The claires are the final stage of the oyster production. Before they come here they have been in chain mail pouches in the sea for two years. (The chain mail is to protect them from predators.)
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