As dawn breaks over the Noia estuary in Spain’s Galicia region, hundreds of women descend into the waist-deep waters to gather cockles and clams,using techniques that have been passed down through generations.For these women, shell fishing is much more than a seasonal job.(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) SHELL FISHERWOMAN, MARI CARMEN ROSENDE MAYO, SAYING: "It means everything to me. When I walk by the sea I forget all my problems. I relax and I care about nothing. I'm in the sea doing my hobby."PRESIDENT OF THE SHELLFISH ASSOCIATION MARISOL AMADO WORKING AND SAYING (UPSOUND)(Spanish) "It is half past seven in the morning, and we are fishing shellfish."Some 4,000 people, almost all women, work as traditional shell fishers along the Atlantic estuaries of Galicia’s rugged coastline.(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) 65-YEAR-OLD SHELL FISHERWOMAN MARI CARMEN ROSENDE MAYO, SAYING: "My name is Mari Carmen Rosende Mayo I have been fishing shellfish for 31 years and I'm going to retire on December 30."Using nothing more than long-handled rakes attached to metal baskets, they earn around $2,300 a month for the six-month season, from October to March.(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) 58-YEAR-OLD SHELL FISHERWOMAN CONCHITA, SAYING: "This is a freeing job. You are like a seagull, you are free. This always drew my attention, since I was a little girl."The practice is strictly regulated by a European-Union funded project focused on the sustainability of shellfish stock.Only licensed shell fishers can participate.(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) 58-YEAR-OLD SHELL FISHERWOMAN, CONCHITA, SAYING: "We have to really, really take care of the sea because it is the livelihood of many people, especially in this estuary.”At the end of the day, each woman’s catch is weighed and shipped off.Some of the old-timers have seen the perception of shell fishing change over time.(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) 65-YEAR-OLD SHELL FISHERWOMAN, MARI CARMEN ROSENDE MAYO, SAYING: "Many years ago they used to say, 'What is your job? Are you a shell fisherwoman? Yuk, shell fisherwoman!' And now many would like to be shell fisherman."Alida Elena, who is 35, is one of a new generation of women learning the ropes.(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) 35-YEAR-OLD SHELLFISH FISHERWOMAN, ALIDA ELENA, SAYING: "Working at sea infatuates you. As soon as the day is over, I am eager for the next day to come so I can return."