When visiting Breskens, it is clear fishing and farming have been essential for the prosperity of the town. But the fishing industry is actually quite a bit younger than that of other parts of Zeeland. Nevertheless, it has a rich history thanks to the perseverance of the villagers.
Since 1870, coastal fishing developed slowly in Breskens, and at the end of the 19th century the fishing fleet consisted of circa 18 vessels. Rather small compared to the shrimp fishing fleet of Arnemuiden which consisted of 63 vessels.
After the First World War the fleet of Breskens grew in size and quality. Thanks to a few good years, fishermen were able to buy better ships and equip these with motors. The harbour town became the most important shrimp landing port of Zeeland. Unfortunately, prices dropped, and in response the municipality of Breskens decided in 1935 to open a municipal fish auction to ensure independence of buyers.
The harbour and fleet were destroyed during the Second World War, except from the fishing pier of 1920 which was immediately put to use again. The town managed to rebuild and within a couple of years, it even had the second biggest shrimp fishing fleet of Zeeland.
Fishing pier of 1920, Erfgoed Zeeland
Environmental concerns led to fishing quota and regulations which affected the fleet strongly and only two fishing boats have remained in the harbour of Breskens. However, the local fish auction is one of the few places in the Netherlands where shrimp may be sieved. And throughout its history, the harbour of Breskens has attracted many trading businesses and craftsmen. Therefore, the harbour is still full of life and vigour.
Grain silo with 1977 wall art “Bread and Fish” by Johnny Beerens, Erfgoed Zeeland
Nowadays, the harbour is not only a place of business but also a place of leisure. People from the village like to meet for a small chat. Tourists can visit the Fishery Museum, there are multiple fish shops and fish restaurants to be found, and the harbour is home to the biggest fishery festival of Zeeland, the “Visserijfeesten”.