- Mortagne-sur-Gironde, France, French Atlantic Coast

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Mortagne-sur-Gironde, Port on the Estuary

A unique site, with its yachting marina and fishing port backed by high white cliffs, with polders protected by a sea wall.

Mortagne-sur-Gironde, a 30 km drive south from Royan is an ideal place to visit to get a wider appreciation and knowledge of the estuary of the Gironde.

From Royan to Mortagne

From Royan, take the D25, direction Saint-Georges-de-Didonne, Meschers, Talmont; after Talmont, go in the direction of Mortagne-sur-Gironde on the D145 which is a continuation of the D25.

After Talmont, the road rises above the Gironde, giving magnificent views over the estuary, with an exceptional luminosity.

A few kilometres before Mortagne, you will drive through Saint-Seurin-d’Uzet, with its port practically in the centre of the village and once famous for the fishing of sturgeon and the production of caviar from eggs of the female sturgeon.

Eventually, the sturgeon became rare and fishing for it has now been forbidden since 1982.

It is remarkable that the Gironde is the only estuary in Europe where the sturgeon comes to reproduce.

When arriving at Mortagne, you can choose, either to continue straight ahead into the village, or to turn right towards the port.

To get a general view of the area, it's better to continue straight ahead, up to the viewing point on a grassy, circular space where you will find an orientation table.

On this headland one has a quasi-aerial view of the port and the channel which connects it to the Gironde, the marshes, the estuary and on the opposite bank, the Médoc vineyard. The marshes begin at the foot of the eroded cliffs and extend to the Gironde.

The yachting marina and the fishing port

After absorbing the general layout of the area, you can return towards the town, this time by taking the small road on the left which comes down towards the shore, named "La Rive", with the yachting marina and the fishing port.

This unique site, with its yachting marina and fishing port backed by high white cliffs, with polders protected by a sea wall and surrounded by corn fields which have been cultivated on the dried up parts of the marshes, comes as a pleasant surprise to visitors. 

Mortagne has a long harbour history. It was an embarkation port for the pilgrims, then for the emigrants due to leave for Canada and it was a well-known fishing port for sturgeon. Mortagne was for a long time the third largest port of the Gironde after Bordeaux and Blaye.

Fishing for pibales or civelles

Fishing for pibales or civelles from the middle of November in the estuary, close to the banks, is one of the specialities of the fishermen of Mortagne.

The small trawlers are equipped with frames with nets on all sides, giving them a very distinctive look that makes them a typical sight of the estuary.

The civelle, which is a baby-eel, is exported and fetches a very high price. These are caught by professional fishermen in their boats and also by amateur fishermen from the banks of the canals in the marshes.

The eel is a fascinating migratory fish. Alevins are born in the Sargasso Sea and after crossing the Atlantic Ocean, which can take several years, they are transformed into civelles which go back upstream in the estuary in November.

There are regulations to protect this natural wealth of the estuary.

Walk along by the port and along the canal and you might be lucky enough to find an old local man there, who still remembers the time when the fishing of pibales or civelles was abundant and will share his memories with you of sturgeons caught, two metres long, which hanging from the branch of a tree, touched the ground!

You'll also enjoy seeing the sight of countless mallard ducks, particularly noisy and active when trying to catch the fragments of bread which are thrown to them by people who regularly visit the port.