Your Guide to Coastal Foraging in Survival Situations

By Ian Kershaw
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Plenty to eat if you know where to look
Plenty to eat if you know where to look
 
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When discussing the great outdoors, and survival in general, many authors completely overlook an important part of the nature around us. While we have covered the temperate climates and the woodlands, and the harsh desert and polar climates as well, we never really touched upon the marine side of things.

 

We want to emphasize the importance of coastal areas in survival situations, but to focus on them from the outdoorsman’s point of view as well. Because the seaside, when its secrets are learned, can be a wealth of resources. And when the going gets tough, it can tip the scales in your favor.

The coastline, when its secrets are learned, can be a wealth of resources.
The coastline, when its secrets are learned, can be a wealth of resources.

The Way to Safety

First we’ll touch upon the importance of a coastline in survival situations. Aside from the wealth of food sources you can find along the shore, the coastline can be your way to safety, especially if you’re inexperienced. How?

 

Well, look at it from this perspective – a shoreline is much like a river. When lost, your best bet is to follow a river. Many settlements are built alongside rivers and similar bodies of water, and that’s why it will eventually lead you to safety. Same thing goes for a coast.

There’s not a lot to do in way of orientation – just follow the waterline and keep your eyes peeled. And another positive aspect is the wealth of shelter along the shore. The cliffs and rocks nearby are dotted with natural hollows and caves, providing a perfect natural shelter and a chance to get out of the elements.

Food, of course, is the other benefit of these areas, and knowing just what the seaside can offer can be a real game changer.

The Seaside Buffet

Most seashores, in most climate ranges, offer great prospects of survival and excellent sources of food. In fact, choosing a coastline as your means of extraction could be a life saving decision. But, as always, you need to keep on your toes for signs and hints. Let’s summarize all the key points of coastal food sources.

Mud shores also attract various forms of bird life that come to feed when the tide is low.
Mud shores also attract various forms of bird life that come to feed when the tide is low.

Mud Shores:

Vast mud plains usually form close to estuaries where rivers flow into the sea. These muddy shores are a soft habitat perfect for various forms of marine life, mostly worms, molluscs, crabs and a few species of burrowing snails.

What’s even more advantageous is the fact that these mud shores also attract various forms of bird life that come to feed when the tide is low. That makes your chances for a meal even better

Rocky shores always hold fishes, crabs of various sizes or even eels.
Rocky shores always hold fishes, crabs of various sizes or even eels.

Rocky Shores:

Perhaps the most common form of a coastal landscape, these seemingly inhospitable shorelines will often offer most food sources. Once the tide is low, the rocks and partial seabed that remain exposed are always full to the brim with edible marine life.
First check the small puddles and sea pools that remain in crevices. These almost always hold fishes, crabs of various sizes or even eels. The next stop for your food source is below the stones. Every large stone that you can turn over will hide below it an abundance of food.

From hermit crabs, periwinkles, sea cucumbers, cockles, mussels, oysters and scallops, all the way to sea lettuce, gutweed, sea squirts, shrimps and prawns. The list just goes on, and what’s best is the fact that these creatures all are found in abundance. A proper meal will leave no impact on the habitat as a whole.

The shores with the least edibles are the pebble shores, and these will be much tougher to exploit. Also, you’d want to keep an eye on the tide. Once the tide is low, you want to act quickly, as it can rise back up really quick. But this often varies from location to location.

Food at the coast can often blend in with the rocks, or even hide below the sand. It takes a bit of effort and a keen eye to spot every edible out there. Molluscs and periwinkles can often be found below the sand, so don’t hesitate to get your hands dirty.

Abalones and cockles are all anchored tightly to rocks, and will need to be carefully pried off.
Abalones and cockles are all anchored tightly to rocks, and will need to be carefully pried off.

On the other hand, dog whelks, abalones and cockles are all anchored tightly to rocks, and will need to be carefully pried off. But in the end, all efforts will certainly pay out – the gathered edibles will be nutritious, plenty and fairly easy to prepare.

As far as water sources go, you probably won’t find any near the water. All pools at the coast will contain only salt water, and without proper boiling and distillation, this is undrinkable. But a bit more inland, where the shore turns to dunes and sandbanks, fresh water pools and similar water sources can be found. Your best, telltale sign is the clumps of greenery and vegetation that grow there.

Conclusion

Perhaps now you’ll come to see the coastlines in a whole new light. Often avoided and underestimated, these marine habitats are far from desolate. Matter of fact, they might offer the best chances for survival or a successful, rewarding camping trip.

It’s also a great chance for first timers to hone their skills in the wild, to learn more about successful foraging, feeding and orientation. All in all, the coastline is the wilderness’ hidden buffet, and it’s full of wonders that await to be explored!

 
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