So Tell Me I'm Wrong!

Once again, the small fishing boats that have been systematically removing every last fish from the bay around us are out today, some laying nets to be taken back up later, others trawling. At one point we were feeding a couple of hundred small fish daily but we haven't seen any whatsoever in weeks now.

The nets being used appear finer than is permitted but nobody is checking anyway. If only the authorities of the world would devote less resources to harassing people for minor infractions that do nobody any harm and send more officials out to prevent the decimation of fish stocks to the point where they may never recover!

The last time I worked on a fishing boat was off the southern Spanish coast in 1991 and, back then, a catch of mackerel was considered a very unlucky find as local housewives would not buy such fish, considering them vermin and the fare of paupers. When the net came up with mackerel in it, the men would groan and start throwing all the fish back into the sea! The only person who filled up buckets to take ashore was me and I did a roaring trade around the British bars in the area, to the great amusement of my colleagues. This was proof that the English foreigners were mad, as far as they were concerned!

Returning to Spain in 2002, it was fascinating to see great heaps of mackerel on the fish counters, apparently enjoying a brisk market now that the choices of fish had been limited by overfishing of other species. It was sad, though, to see how quickly the mackerel stocks were being decimated, even then.

In the early 1990s, a shoal of mackerel would churn the surface of the water up over such a wide area that it was frequently impossible to see the further reaches with the naked eye. In the same area, a decade later, a typical shoal hardly occupied the surface area that could have been covered by a cot blanket.

Crossing the Atlantic, as recently as 1998, one could quite easily catch enough fish in a single morning to fill the deep-freeze and put the fishing tackle away for the rest of the voyage. Returning in 2001, we only managed to catch a single, rather small, yellowfin tuna in the entire 35-day voyage, including a five day period in which we had no wind whatsoever and all day, every day, in which to try!

People have taken to eating species that take more than 50 years to reach maturity. It must be obvious that they will extinguish those species in record time. Fishermen, fully aware that they are doing untold and permanent damage to the sea bed and pushing fish stocks towards the point of no return, persist blindly, wilfully ignoring the ruin of the future in order to grab the last drop of profit in the present.

On a trip aboard a trawler in 1994 to photograph a typical day in the life of a
trawler crew in Spanish waters, I was asked by the captain to let him know if I saw a Guardia Civil vessel appear on the horizon as they were fishing in a prohibited area, designated thus to protect breeding grounds!

We have frequently watched fishing boats slow down on the way back to port, to allow time for all the illegally small fish to be thrown overboard to the waiting seagulls, just in case there is an inspector on the quay awaiting their return, although there hardly ever is.

We are not intellectual 'greenies' plucking theories out of thin air. We live full-time at sea. The skipper has lived aboard continuously since 1989 and I since 1996. It is our habitat and we speak from personal experience, not that we suppose anyone would be interested in anything we have to say in the absence of any 'relevant qualifications'!