An Anchovy Tour of the Mediterranean Coast

Sights, stories and recipes from the anchovy coast in France and Spain.

From the old port town of L’Escala, Spain, up the Costa Brava to the Côte Vermeille in southernmost France, this 100–kilometre stretch of shoreline is where the small, oily anchovy has been fished, salted, cured and preserved since the Greeks colonized the region some 2,600 years ago. Walk into any restaurant and you’ll find them marinated in olive oil, salted or pickled as boquerónes: Welcome to anchovy heaven.

Popularized in the early aughts by Catalan chef Ferran Adrià at El Bulli, Spanish anchovies – plump and meaty, unlike the overly salty pizza toppers North Americans were accustomed to – are still in relentless demand. But all that hype coincides with, and has contributed to, declining stocks in the Mediterranean.

Photographer Xavier Tera captured the region’s love affair with the fish – a relationship that defines its economy, culture and cuisine – meeting the fishermen, salters and cooks for whom the anchovy is a livelihood, and tasting precious local delicacies like suquet, a traditional Catalan fish stew.

NOV 07, 2018
The sea with a boat in the distance and a rocky outcropping in the foreground.
What you sea is what you get.
A group of elderly people preparing Catalan suquet.
Locals prepare a traditional Catalan suquet on the beach in Collioure, France.
Two people in yellow rain slickers sorting anchovies.
The crew of Captain Josep Lluís Sureda’s Germans Sureda Busquets unpack another measly haul of anchovies.
A woman standing in the doorway of a grocery store in Portugal.
Family matriarch Marie Roque greets customers at Anchois Roque, one of Collioure’s oldest anchovy houses.
A Spanish seafood dish.
Simmered with fresh fish and potatoes, suquet is a one–pot meal that brings everyone to the table.
A Spanish restaurant shot from outside with light blue walls.
Residents gather at Café Lola, a social hub in the centre of town.
Two men holding fishing nets looking down into the water, shot from behind at a distance.
Net gains: searching for sea urchins in the port of Cadaqués, Spain.
A woman wrapping up a jar of preserved anchovies.
Marie Roque packs up a jar of her famous anchovy fillets.
A man in a blue button-down shirt standing among sailing ships at anchor in a port.
Traditional fishing boats dock alongside modern vessels in Collioure’s harbour.
A rock formation in the water of the Mediterranean, with an opening.
Sign of the times: a rock formation eroded by the Mediterranean Sea.
Part of a featureless white building with palm fronds and blue sky framing it.
Palms cast afternoon shadows in L’Escala, on the Spanish side of the border.
A person's hands deboning anchovies.
Anchois Roque’s salting process is handled by just two women who expertly clean, salt and debone the fish.
A crew member on an anchovy fishing boat in a yellow jacket with a blue cap on.
A crew member of the 18.5–metre anchovy boat Germans Sureda Busquets, which sets sail from L’Escala, Spain.
Two sailing boats in front of a medieval castle overlooking the water with two men in the foreground with their backs to the camera.
The vibrant colours of Collioure, France’s traditional fishing fleet have inspired paintings by Matisse and Derain.
Beautiful red flowers in the foreground, with a blue sky in the background.
Stop and smell the bougainvillea: beautiful flora lines routes D914 in France and N–260 in Spain, which take you past pretty villages and quiet pebble beaches.
The bow of a boat with blue and red sides and a white interior, sitting in dark blue water.
Barques catalanes – brightly painted in Catalan red and gold with sea blue – were used to catch anchovies and sardines until World War II, when they were replaced by industrial trawlers.
Two people's hands on a table with the remains of a recently completed meal.
It’s been a family affair since 1967 at Es Baluard, a small restaurant in Cadaqués where harbour views mix with local wines and the classic pa amb tomàquet i anxoves: tomato–rubbed toast topped with umami–laden fish.
Two older gentlemen talking in front of a bay with some sailing boats and a hill in the background.
Telling fish tales by the port of Collioure.
A sign shaped like an arrow that reads "L'Escala" on an old-looking wall.
This way to L’Escala.